Drink More Fluids, Eat More Fruits and Vegetables During Warmer Season

Remember when toddlers were the only ones carrying bottles? Carrying a bottle of water to class, to work, on shopping trips, on walks and in cars has become quite chic. That’s a fashion statement with health benefits.

How much do you know about the importance of water and other fluids in your diet? Try this quiz.

  1. Depending on age, size and gender, about what percent of an adult’s body weight consists of water?
  1. 10 to 25 percent
  2. 15 to 30 percent
  3. 25 to 50 percent
  4. 55 to 75 percent
  1. About how much water do adults lose daily through perspiration, breathing and normal elimination?
  1. 3 cups
  2. 6 cups
  3. 8 cups
  4. 10 cups
  1. A person who has lost ____ percent of his or her body water may experience muscle spasms, swollen tongue and wakefulness.
  1. 25 percent
  2. 20 percent
  3. 15 percent
  4. 10 percent
  1. On average, how many cups of water and other fluids should you consume each day through liquids and the foods in your diet?
  1. 2 cups
  2. 4 cups
  3. 6 cups
  4. 8 cups

How did you do? The answers are all choice No. 4.

The importance of water and other fluids to health often is overlooked. Water is a calorie-free beverage that supports the function of almost all body processes. For example, water helps transport nutrients about the body and carries wastes out of the body. It helps regulate body temperature. It helps cushion joints. When you feel “thirsty,” you’re already mildly dehydrated and have lost about 1 percent of your body water.

You need more water if you’re exposed to extremely hot or cold temperatures. During intense exercise, dehydration can become an issue. Drink water before, during and after physical activity. Athletes, in particular, can see a decline in strength and performance with even mild dehydration.

Being sick, especially if you’re experiencing fever, vomiting or diarrhea, will increase fluid needs. Pregnant and nursing women need to increase their fluid intake, too. People who spend a lot of time in air travel often need extra fluids due to the dryness of the air.

Remember that food, especially fruits and vegetables, also contain a high percentage of water. About 90 percent of the weight of watermelon and tomatoes comes from water. Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and cola do count as fluids, but the caffeine can have a diuretic effect, leading to loss of water in the urine, so plain water is considered more hydrating.

So, drink – and eat – to your health. Keep fluids within easy reach. Carry a sippy cup filled with ice water with you in your car. Keep a glass of water on your desk or bed stand. Have soup more often as a first course. Eat plenty of high-water foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Here’s a tasty slush beverage that’s a special treat to enjoy at a summer cookout or summer celebration.

Summertime Slush

3-ounce package strawberry or raspberry gelatin (sugar-free)
1 c. boiling water
3 c. cold water
2 c. cranberry juice cocktail
1 (12-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 (12-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 quarts lemon-lime soda pop (diet or regular)

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water in small bowl. In a nonmetal freezer container (such as an ice cream bucket), combine dissolved gelatin with remaining ingredients except carbonated beverage; cover. Freeze about eight hours or until it reaches a slush consistency. To serve, allow to stand at room temperature about 30 minutes and spoon about 1/2 cup slush mixture into serving glass and fill with lemon-lime soda.

Makes about 20 servings.

When made with sugar-free gelatin and diet soda, a serving (about 1 cup) contains about 90 calories, 19 grams (g) of carbohydrate, no fat or protein and 60 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C. When made with “regular” products, each serving has 130 calories and 32 g of carbohydrate. The remaining nutrition facts stay the same.

‘Grazing’ Can Have Health Benefits

“He eats like a horse.”

I think I have described my son’s teenage years in those terms at some point. I have heard other parents of teenagers do the same.

Eating like a horse actually is a compliment in some ways. Horses graze, and research has shown that grazing, or snacking on minimeals throughout the day, makes a lot of sense nutritionally. In fact, several well-chosen snacks paced throughout the day can be just as nutritious as three square meals.

One research study found that dividing your daily food intake into 17 minimeals can lower blood cholesterol, particularly the LDL, or bad cholesterol, levels. Even the most faithful eaters, however, would have trouble eating 17 times daily.

Other researchers have reported that grazing on six small meals daily offers some benefits in weight control. Each time we eat food, our metabolic activity increases, kind of like starting your vehicle. Starting your “internal combustion engine” six times daily may burn some additional calories as long as those six snacks are not the size of complete meals.

Diabetics, in particular, need to eat regularly, so the pattern of six smaller meals daily can help with blood glucose control. Children need snacks to meet their nutritional needs as they grow. Elderly people also benefit from smaller meals because some experience a reduction in appetite. Smaller meals often are tolerated better than larger ones.

With today’s faster pace of life, many people find themselves eating on the run. The snack food industry offers all sorts of tempting products that aren’t necessarily high in nutrients, but many are high in fat, sugar and sodium. Healthy snacking takes a little planning. Keep your refrigerator and cupboard stocked with healthful foods, and use snacks as a way to fill in nutrient gaps.

If you struggle to meet the daily recommendation for vegetables and fruits, put some fresh fruits and vegetables in a plastic bag to munch in the car or at your desk. Go beyond baby carrots and snack on broccoli, cauliflower, jicama, zucchini, bell peppers, snow peas and other veggies.

Many types of fruits and vegetables provide vitamins A and C, as well as needed fluids. Dried fruit has less fluid, but it is easily portable and can be stored much longer, but dried fruits have more calories per the same weight.

To help meet your calcium needs, consume at least two to three servings from the dairy group daily. How about snacking on lower-fat cheeses such as mozzarella or farmer cheese cut into cubes? Retailers have made yogurt very portable these days by repackaging the same item in easy-to-eat plastic tubes.

Enjoy some whole-grain crackers from the grain group. Or fill a plastic bag with whole-grain cereal for a quick pick-me-up that is much less expensive than visiting the vending machine.

To add protein to your minimeals, try hummus, a dip made from chickpeas. Nuts are high-protein, portable snacks, but if weight loss is a goal, remember they also are fairly high in calories. Beef jerky is a portable snack that’s a good source of iron, but pay attention to the sodium content, especially if you have been told by a health-care provider to watch your sodium intake.

Here’s a snack that is quick to fix and very nutritious. Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food for more recipes and information about nutrition, food safety and health.

Homemade Chips and Fresh Salsa

Chip ingredients 6 corn tortillas Salt (optional)

Procedure Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tortillas into small wedges, similar to cutting up a pie. Place on baking sheet. If salt is desired, spray tortillas lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Bake approximately 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Makes four servings of chips. Without salt, each serving has 90 calories, 1.5 grams (g) fat, 2 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 0 milligrams (mg) sodium.

Salsa ingredients 2 large ripe tomatoes 2 tsp. chili peppers, finely chopped 3 Tbsp. onions, chopped 1/4 tsp ground coriander (or 2 tsp. chopped cilantro) 1 Tbsp. sugar

Procedure Chop ingredients by hand or use a food processor. Chill or serve immediately. Note: You can alter the heat in your salsa based on your choice of pepper.

Makes four servings of salsa. Each serving has 30 calories, 0 g fat, 1 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 15 mg sodium.


Add Some Culture to Your Menu

My family members always enjoyed some fairly unusual foods. As a kid, I’d eat just about anything, with a few exceptions.

Liver sausage and lutefisk only briefly touched my plate before being transferred stealthily to a distracted parent’s plate. I usually left the kitchen when the tightly covered jar of the highly aromatic Limburger cheese came out of the refrigerator.

I usually went looking for the air freshener.

When I went off to college, I took a liking to yogurt. I even bought a yogurt maker, and I brought it home to treat my parents to home-made yogurt. They wrinkled their noses and said, “I just can’t eat that.” Oh, they might have eaten a teaspoon of it to be polite.

That’s more lutefisk than I tried.

Yogurt has been around for thousands of years. It’s made by mixing milk, or in some cases cream, with active bacterial cultures that ferment the milk and change its consistency. In recent years, research has shown some health benefits associated with eating yogurt because of the “friendly bacteria” it contains.

Most dairy foods contain the milk sugar known as lactose. People with lactose intolerance often suffer intestinal distress when they drink milk because they are deficient in an enzyme, lactase, which breaks down milk sugar. However, most people with lactose intolerance can enjoy calcium-rich yogurt without the consequences because the bacterial cultures break down lactose into a digestible form.

Yogurt and other fermented foods contain live bacteria and are termed “probiotics,” meaning “for life.” While bacteria may be inactivated in the acidic environment of the stomach, some probiotics can survive and compete with disease-causing microorganisms in the small and large intestines.

The small and large intestines contain an estimated 100 trillion bacteria of 400 different types. Some are neutral, some are probiotics and some have the potential to cause disease. Researchers are studying the role that probiotics may play in boosting the immune system to fight disease. Probiotics also may compete with disease-causing organisms for nutrients in the stomach.

In the U.S., two different bacterial strains are used to produce yogurt: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. To be sure you are getting live cultures in your yogurt, look for these phrases on the yogurt container: “with active yogurt cultures,” “with living yogurt cultures” or “contains active cultures.”

Eat yogurt within a week of the “sell by” date on the container to take advantage of the live cultures, which can decrease through time.

Yogurt is available in many forms and flavors. You can buy whipped yogurt, custard yogurt, fruit-on-the bottom yogurt, drinkable yogurt and yogurt in kid-friendly squeezable plastic tubes. Here’s a recipe for a tasty dip that’s low in calories and high in nutrients.

Creamy Spinach and Yogurt Dip

1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (squeeze out excess liquid) 2 c. plain yogurt, drained for 20 minutes

1/2 c. low-fat ricotta cheese 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 c. minced scallions 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill (optional) salt and black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well, cover and refrigerate. Serve with crackers or fresh vegetables.

Makes 30 servings, 2 tablespoons per serving. Each serving contains 25 calories, 1 gram (g) fat, 2 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein and 60 milligrams calcium.

Do You Like to “Ham Up” Your Menus?

I’ve long been a fan of ham, and pork in general. Whenever I was able to influence the holiday menu at home or at a relatives’ home, I requested ham or pork roast. Sometimes I got my wish.

So, several years ago I was quite pleased to be asked to judge the ham curing contest that was part of an annual Little International livestock show at NDSU.

We judges examined more than 70 hams for external appearance, including shape and degree of trimming. After the initial judging, we rated the internal texture and appearance. Finally, we tasted small samples of the 15 hams that received the highest external scores. The top-scoring hams were auctioned to raise money for scholarships.

As a reward, I received a large ham. I must admit I had my fill of ham that week. My family stopped asking what was for dinner.

In the past, pork often was viewed as a high-fat meat, but not any longer. Hogs have slimmed down, and no treadmills were involved in the process. Through improved genetics and feeding practices, pork is much leaner today. In fact, pork is over 30 percent lower in fat and 29 percent lower in saturated fat today than 30 years ago.

To make pork and other meats even leaner, you can trim visible fat before cooking and use low-fat food preparation techniques like grilling, roasting on a rack, oven broiling or stir-frying. Marinating lean meat also adds extra flavor, but for food safety reasons it’s best to discard the leftover marinade that has been in contact with raw meat.

To keep pork tender and juicy, don’t overcook it. The safe internal temperature recommendation has changed through the years. In the past, pork was a potential source of the parasite trichinella, but infections in hogs are a rare event today, so internal temperature recommendations have decreased.

According to the latest research, pork chops and roasts should reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees, as measured with a food thermometer. After the pork reaches 145 degrees, allow it to “rest” for at least 3 minutes. The temperature of the meat continues to rise as it rests.

Remember, too, that 145 degrees is the minimum temperature, so you can keep cooking beyond the minimum temperature to reach your preferred level of doneness.

Pork is a versatile, nutritious item on the menu. It provides protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B-12 and niacin, which helps the body produce energy from the food we eat.

If you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, remember that any “cured” product such as ham or bacon will be higher in sodium because the curing agent is high in sodium. If sodium is a nutritional issue for you because of high blood pressure or other reasons, limit cured products in your diet or consider choosing reduced-sodium products in grocery stores.

Pork loses about one-fourth of its weight during cooking. As an easy rule of thumb, buy about a quarter-pound of raw boneless meat per person. For safety and quality, try to use fresh meat within a few days of purchase.

As we approach outdoor grilling season, here’s a tasty recipe to try from www.porkandhealth.org/. Try these marinated pork chops with blended wild rice, a tossed salad and fresh fruit with dip.

Favorite Pork Chops

4 pork chops, about 3/4 inch thick
3/4 c. Italian dressing
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Place all ingredients in a self-sealing bag; seal and place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to a few hours. Remove chops from bag, discarding marinade. Grill over a medium-hot fire for 10-15 minutes, turning once. The internal temperature should reach 160 F.

Makes four servings. Each serving contains 210 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 140 milligrams of sodium.

Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis?

When my older daughter was about 18 months old, she broke her leg in an unfortunate indoor collision with an older child at day care. While her tiny hot-pink cast did make quite a fashion statement, the several weeks of healing and her lack of mobility made life a little difficult for her and the rest of the family. She re-learned how to walk with the cast and is fine today, but it made my family think about our bones a little more.

Bones, of course, primarily are composed of calcium. Without enough calcium in our bones, we literally wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis, Osteoporosis (porous bones) causes bones to become fragile and easily fractured. Even though women are more at risk for osteoporosis, males also can be affected.

Answering “yes” to any of the following questions could indicate you may be more at risk for developing osteoporosis:

  • Are you female?
  • Do you have a family history of osteoporosis?
  • Are you of Caucasian or Asian descent?
  • Are you over age 50?
  • If female, have you had your ovaries removed?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes?
  • Is your diet low in calcium (under 1,000 milligrams/day) and vitamin D?
  • Is your diet limited in fruits and vegetables?
  • Do you limit dairy foods or other calcium-rich foods?
  • Do you have a high intake of protein, sodium and caffeine?
  • Do you drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day?

Keeping our bones strong and healthy throughout life takes some effort. You can help protect yourself from developing osteoporosis by consuming plenty of calcium-rich foods throughout life and by getting enough weight-bearing physical activity, like walking. Calcium supplements are another option to consider with your health-care provider. Adequate vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium.

Calcium needs differ depending on age. The current calcium recommendations are: 500 milligrams (mg) daily for 1- to 3-year-olds, 800 mg for 4- to 8-year-olds, 1,300 mg for 9- to 18-year-olds, 1,000 mg for 19- to 50-year-olds and 1,200 mg for adults age 51 and older.

Dairy products such milk, yogurt and cheese are excellent calcium sources. A cup of milk, for example, contains about 300 mg of calcium. Some plant foods such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard greens, almonds and dried beans naturally contain calcium. Certain types of orange juice, cereals and other items in the grocery store have been fortified with calcium, too.

To learn more about your calcium intake, read the “percent daily value” for calcium on the Nutrition Facts labels for different food products. Add a zero to this number to convert it to milligrams. For example, a serving of yogurt might contain 35 percent of the daily value for calcium, or 350 mg of calcium.

Here’s a calcium-rich recipe courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Council. It is ready to eat in about 30 minutes.

Baked Spinach Artichoke Yogurt Dip

1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained 1 container (8 ounces) plain low-fat yogurt 1 cup shredded low-moisture part-skim Mozzarella cheese 1/4 cup green onion, chopped  1 garlic clove, minced 2 tablespoons red pepper, chopped

Combine all ingredients except red pepper and mix well. Pour mixture into 1-quart casserole dish or 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with red peppers.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 80 calories, 3 grams (g) fat, 7 g carbohydrate, 8 g protein and 220 mg sodium.

How Lucky Are You Related to Health?

“Uncle John lived to be 95, and he ate bacon, eggs, butter and cream every day and few fruits or vegetables.” “Aunt Jane never ate a vegetable in her life and she’s 89.” Do these quotes ring a bell? Do nutrition and physical activity really make a difference, or is good health a matter of luck?

Although “Uncle John” and “Aunt Jane” are not real people in this case, you may think that certain people defy the odds. They eat whatever they want, rarely exercise and appear fairly healthy.

Remember that our lifestyles have changed drastically in the last 100 years. The Uncle Johns of the world probably were engaged in labor-intense occupations and needed the energy from a high-calorie diet. Chances are, he didn’t have a cellphone, remote control or automatic garage door opener.

And who was monitoring Aunt Jane’s plate, anyway?

Good genes certainly play a role in good health, but it’s too late for any of us to change our biological parents. If “Cousin Bob” died of a heart attack at 45 and you happen to look just like him, is it time to give up when you turn 44?  Of course not.

As scientific research has shown again and again, lifestyle choices and good medical care play a major role in keeping us healthy. It’s never too late to make some changes. In recognition of March, National Nutrition Month, take this short quiz to see what you know about nutrition and physical activity.

  1. How many minutes of physical activity should you accumulate daily on most days of the week to help prevent chronic disease?
  1. 30
  2. 45
  3. 60
  4. 90
  1. What’s the minimum total amount of fruits and vegetables most adults should aim for each day?
  1. 3.5 cups
  2. 2.5 cups
  3. 1.5 cups
  4. 1 cup
  1. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron better. Which beverage would be the best choice with iron-fortified cereal?
  1. Orange juice
  2. Apple juice
  3. Grape juice
  4. Milk
  1. Weight-bearing exercises help keep our bones strong. Which of these is NOT a weight-bearing exercise?
  1. Swimming
  2. Walking
  3. Running
  4. Dancing
  1. Which type of fat is considered least “heart-healthy”?
  1. Trans fat
  2. Saturated fat
  3. Polyunsaturated fat
  4. Monounsaturated fat
  1. Which of these is a good source of the substance our bodies use to make vitamin A?
  1. Sweet potatoes
  2. Corn
  3. Radishes
  4. Hotdogs
  1. To lose a pound of body fat, how many calories do you have cut from your diet or use up through additional physical activity?
  1. 3,500
  2. 5,000
  3. 7,500
  4. 10,000

How did you do? If you answered “1” (first answer) to every question, you earned a perfect score. Lifestyle choices can make a difference. Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food for more information and a recipe database.

Not only is March National Nutrition Month, but it also brings to mind the “luck of the Irish” and St. Patrick’s Day. Here’s a lower-calorie version of a traditional Irish favorite, Colcannon. This mixture of potatoes and cabbage (or substitute kale) also is known as “Thump” or “Champ.”

Irish Colcannon – Lite

1 c. water

1 Tbsp. butter or margarine

1/4 tsp. salt

3 c. chopped cabbage

1/3 c. skim milk

1 c. instant mashed potato flakes

1 green onion, chopped

Combine water, margarine and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to boiling and add cabbage; return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer four to six minutes or until cabbage is tender. Remove from heat; stir in milk and potato flakes with fork. Stir in onion. Cover and let stand about three minutes. (Add additional warmed milk, if needed.)

Makes four servings, 1/2 cup each. Each serving has 90 calories, 3 grams (g) fat, 3 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber and 180 milligrams sodium.

10 Snacks to Fill Nutrition Gaps

“Snacking” often conjures up images of guzzling soda pop, crunching on chips and munching on candy bars while cruising down the highway or lounging in front of a TV.

Snack foods are big sellers, and most of us enjoy some type of “between-meal mini-meal” every day.

Snacking on more nutritious foods, however, can be good for your health. Well-chosen snacks can fill in nutrition gaps and add variety to your diet. Nutritious snacks also can help with weight control and improve work or school performance by providing an energy boost. Smaller, more frequent meals can even help prevent heartburn.

Snacks can help you meet current nutrition recommendations, too. March, National Nutrition Month, is a good time to examine your diet.

Are you eating at least 3.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day? That’s the recommended amount for most people. Snacking on a crunchy apple or a handful of baby carrots will help you reach the recommendation.

Are you meeting the daily calcium recommendation (1,000 milligrams daily for most adults)? Snacking on a cup of low-fat yogurt or an ounce and a half of cheese will each add a serving to your day’s total.

Are you getting about 3 ounces of whole grain foods in your daily diet? Three to four whole grain crackers, one small whole grain muffin or an ounce of whole grain cereal each count as a one-ounce serving.

Too much of almost any food, however, can lead to weight gain. To help with weight management, it’s best to keep snacks at about 100 or 200 calories per snack and to eat smaller portions at main meals.

How much is 100 or 200 calories’ worth of food? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) provided this listing of nutritious snacks with calorie, fat and fiber content.

  • 1 medium banana and one tablespoon of peanut butter: 200 calories, 8.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber.
  • 1 medium apple with skin and one-ounce string cheese: 190 calories, 6.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber
  • One-quarter cup of raisins and one half cup plain yogurt: 170 calories, 0 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of fiber
  • Two-cups of popcorn, unbuttered sprinkled with cayenne pepper: 80 calories, 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of fiber
  • One-half cup of pretzels and mustard: 93 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0.5 grams of fiber
  • 10 regular tortilla chips and one-quarter cup salsa: 188 calories, 10 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber
  • One-cup of dry whole grain cereal and one cup of one percent milk: 200 calories, 3 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of fiber
  • Six-ounces of skim milk, one-half tablespoon cocoa, one half tablespoon sugar, dash cinnamon and vanilla extract: 102 calories, 5 grams of fat, 0 grams of fiber.
  • One small corn tortilla, one-half ounce grated reduced fat cheddar cheese, 1 chopped tomato, 1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper slices: 109 calories, 2 grams of fat, 2.7 grams of fiber
  • One slice of angel food cake with one-third cup of fresh berries: 100 calories, 0.2 grams of fat, 1.6 grams of fiber

This easy dip provides a variety of nutrients, which can be enhanced by the accompaniments you choose.

Easy Bean Dip

1 16-ounce can refried beans 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce 1 teaspoon chili powder

In a small saucepan, mix all three ingredients. Heat and stir until smooth. Store in refrigerator. Serve hot or cold with carrot sticks, celery sticks, cauliflower, broccoli, whole grain crackers or baked tortilla chips.

Makes 2 cups (8 servings). Each serving contains 85 calories, 0.6 g fat, 10.7 g carbohydrate, 0.5 g fiber and 175 mg sodium.

Do You Know How to “Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle”?

March is designated National Nutrition Month by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and that’s a great time to take steps to develop a healthful eating plan as we move toward spring. Ask yourself these questions and give yourself these scores: 2 points for each “Yes” answer, 1 point for each “I’m trying” answer and no points for the “No” answers.

1. Do you make half your plate veggies and fruits?                   

Yes      I’m trying      No

Choose red, orange and dark green vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli.

2. Do you include lean protein in your menus?              

Yes      I’m trying      No

Choose protein foods such as lean beef and pork, chicken, seafood, turkey, beans, lentils or tofu.

3. Do you make half your grains choices whole grains?

Yes      I’m trying      No

Look for the words “100 percent whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat” on the food label. Whole grains provide more nutrients, such as fiber, than refined grains.

4. Do you include dairy or other calcium-rich foods?

Yes      I’m trying      No

Pair your meal with a cup of fat-free or low-fat milk. Low-fat and fat-free milk provide the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but they contain less fat and fewer calories.

5. Do you take your time when you dine?

Yes      I’m trying      No

Savor your food. Eat slowly, enjoy the taste and textures, and pay attention to how you feel so you can stop before eating more than your body needs.

6. Do you try new foods?

Yes      I’m trying      No

Pick out new foods you’ve never tried, such as mangos, lentils or kale. You may find a new favorite. Trade fun and tasty recipes with friends or find them online.


10 or more points: Good job! Check out the resources listed below for more recipes and tips.

5 to 9 points: You are making progress toward a healthful diet. Keep trying!

4 or fewer points: Check out the items you marked “No” or “I’m trying” and consider setting some goals. Make small changes toward better health.

For more information and recipes, visit www.choosemyplate.gov or www.ag.ndsu.edu/foodwise or www.ndsu.edu/boomers

Here’s a colorful recipe that kids can help prepare. They can help select the vegetables at the grocery store. Look for zucchini with skin that is shiny and free of soft spots. They can rinse/scrub vegetables at home. Older children can help make the veggie ribbons with a veggie peeler. Experiment with other types of summer squash, or try tossing with a little lemon juice before serving.

Vegetable Ribbons

1 medium zucchini (about 1½ cups after cutting)
1 large carrot (about 1½ cups after cutting)
1 tsp. olive or vegetable oil (or use cooking spray)
Salt, pepper (if desired)

  1. Wash hands.
  2. Rinse zucchini and carrot. Peel carrot and cut off ends. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini and carrot into ribbons by moving the peeler back and forth.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. (Or lightly coat pan with cooking spray.)
  4. Add the vegetable ribbons, stir, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for two to three minutes, or until vegetables are tender but not overcooked.
  5. Remove from heat, add pepper and salt, if desired, and serve immediately.
  6. Option: To make vegetable coins instead of ribbons, cut zucchini and carrot into thin slices. Add ¼ cup water to the pan; cover and cook five to eight minutes.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 35 calories, 1.5 grams (g) fat, 5 g carbohydrate, less than 1 gram protein and 35 milligrams of sodium.

Recipe reprinted from the Eat Smart. Spend Smart. program, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Menu Idea

Oven-roasted chicken, baked potatoes, Vegetable Ribbons, apple slices with cinnamon, low-fat or fat-free milk


How Do You Find the Truth in a World of Health and Appearance Ads?

If you’ve read popular magazines, surfed the Internet or watched an “infomercial” on TV lately, chances are you’ve seen some enticing health-related advertisements. According to the claims, improving your appearance is fairly effortless.

You can “melt fat” while you sleep and wake up slim and trim. You can reshape your body in less than five minutes a day. You can have wrinkle-free skin if you take XYZ dietary supplement.

Look closely. Most of these ads feature genetically blessed models.

As I perused a magazine, one ad promising a 15-pound weight loss in three days caught my attention. I actually lost 20 pounds in two days. But I had a 9-pound baby boy to take home with me from the hospital.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on health-related books and products, and unfortunately, the products and information often lack merit. In addition to wasting your money, some of the advice actually can be harmful.

Dietary supplements, for example, are not highly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The supplement manufacturers don’t have to prove the products are effective or safe.

Certain herbal supplements in particular have been shown to be harmful, or even deadly in some cases. That’s why keeping your health-care provider informed of any product you are taking is so important. Some supplements interfere with medications.

How can you decipher fact from fiction? Here’s a checklist of questions to ask yourself before you open your pocketbook:

  • Does the product promise a quick fix? Complex issues rarely can be solved as quickly as the ads indicate.
  • Does the promise sound too good to be true? Trust your common sense.
  • Are simple conclusions drawn from complex studies? Scientific research is quite complicated. Sometimes stories about scientific studies are short on details.
  • Are the recommendations based on the results of a single study? When new studies come out, they often make the news, especially if they contradict other information. National recommendations, however, aren’t made on the basis of a single study.
  • Are doubts cast about reputable scientific organizations? This is a tactic often used to make consumers fear or mistrust science.
  • Are lists of “good” and “bad” foods given? Some foods may taste “good” or “bad,” but when consumed in moderation, these foods aren’t necessarily “bad” for you. All foods can fit into a healthful diet. It’s a matter of controlling how much and how often you eat foods that are high in calories and/or fat.
  • Is the evidence based on science or on testimonials? People who’ve experienced success with the product often are pictured and quoted. But sometimes the ads feature paid actors or models who never have used the product.
  • Are the recommendations based on studies of individuals or groups of people? You can’t draw valid conclusions and make recommendations based on a small study with only a few subjects.

In this information age, where can you go for reliable information about nutrition and health? Government agencies, scientific organizations, professional organizations such as the American Dietetic Association, accredited food and nutrition departments at universities, Extension Service offices, nutrition units of health-care centers and reliable industry groups are some sources of good information.

Visit the NDSU Extension Service website at www.ndsu.edu/boomers and click on “Finding the Truth” for more resources about this topic. You might save some money as a result.

The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has some merit. Apples are a good source of pectin, a soluble fiber that, in combination with a low-fat diet, has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Try this tasty, nutritious and quick-to-make recipe.

Honey Baked Apples

6 medium baking apples 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter 1/4 cup honey 1/4 cup granola-type cereal 1/4 cup raisins

Wash and core apples. Peel top half or slit peel horizontally around each apple about an inch from the top to allow steam to escape. Place in baking dish lined with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 F for 40 minutes. Combine butter, honey, cereal and raisins. Fill apples with mixture and bake 10 additional minutes. Makes six servings.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 200 calories, 3.5 grams (g) fat, 1 g protein, 45 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber and 0 milligrams sodium.



The Sweet History of Chocolate Will Tempt Your Palate


photo by rosvita courtesy of morguefile.com

If chocolate melts in your hands, you’re eating it too slowly,” according to a popular quote. That works for me.

Chocolate has tempted palates for hundreds of years. After his trip to America, Columbus brought cocoa beans to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, who weren’t overly impressed and didn’t imagine the possibilities.

Another Spanish explorer, Cortez, observed the Aztecs enjoying a bitter beverage made with cocoa beans. Ever the entrepreneurs, Cortez and other Spaniards tweaked the appeal of the chocolate beverage by adding cane sugar to suit the tastes of Europeans.

Spanish monks later developed a way to process cocoa beans, and when a cocoa press was invented in 1828, the supply increased, making it more accessible to everyone. The first chocolate factory was established in the United States in 1765 and the popularity of chocolate soared.

Going from cocoa beans to chocolate requires several steps. The beans are roasted and cooled, and the shells are removed. The shelled product then is crushed and separated into liquid chocolate and cocoa butter.

Making high-quality chocolate is a real science. Cocoa butter, sugar and unsweetened chocolate are blended to make a dough. Milk chocolate, as you’d suspect, contains milk and less unsweetened chocolate.

Next, the mixture passes through rollers that make its consistency very smooth, and then it goes through a procedure called “conching.” This kneading process is designed to improve the flavor. Sometimes another process, emulsifying, is done to break up sugar crystals and ensure the product is at its smoothest. The chocolate then is heated, cooled, reheated and finally molded into a variety of shapes and sizes.

Chocolate is a much-loved food that some may feel guilty about eating. Actually, chocolate may not be as unhealthy as you might imagine. Milk chocolate contains several different types of fatty acids, including oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that also is found in olive oil. Oleic acid is considered to be a “heart healthy” fat.

While research has shown a link between saturated fat intake and heart disease, one type of saturated fat in cocoa butter, stearic acid, seems to behave differently. A study conducted at Pennsylvania State University showed that even regularly eating 10 ounces of milk chocolate did not raise LDL (bad) cholesterol or total cholesterol. Do you suppose they had to turn away chocoholics who wanted to participate in the study?

Chocolate also is a good source of antioxidant nutrients known as polyphenols. Antioxidants protect cells and tissues from damage by “free radicals” that roam the body and promote cardiovascular diseases and other health problems. Some studies have shown that chocolate may contain more antioxidants than tea.

Based on these studies, should you turn to chocolate as the ultimate health food? Any food can fit into a healthful diet, but moderation, balance and variety remain the keys to healthful eating. The occasional chocolate bar, cup of cocoa or rich chocolate dessert easily can fit into a healthful diet.

If you’re trying to lose weight, remember that chocolate bars are energy-dense at 240 calories and 13.5 grams of fat per typical 1.6-ounce bar. Too many calories, regardless of the source, can lead to weight gain. If you have a chocolate craving, try a few chocolate kisses to quench your craving. Unwrapping each chocolate kiss takes time.

Here’s a chocolaty recipe that originally appeared on Mazola Margarine packages.

Cocoa Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup margarine (or butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 egg whites

Place paper liners in 18 muffin pan cups. Sift together dry ingredients. Place margarine in mixer bowl and beat on medium speed until soft. Add vanilla. Add sugar gradually while beating. On low speed, add flour mixture alternately with water. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and gently fold into batter. Spoon into muffin cups and bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. When toothpick comes out clean, they are done. Cool in pans. Tops may be sprinkled with powdered sugar when cool.

Makes 18 cupcakes. Each cupcake has160 calories, 8 grams (g) fat, 2 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 140 milligrams sodium.