Posts Tagged 'meals'

Pull up a chair

Closeup of a set dinner table

Cropped image. Jamin Gray, Flickr. CC license.

Growing up, we had an open invitation to go to my Grandma’s for dinner on Sunday evenings. It was a time for everyone to get together and share what happened at work, at little league or just hang out knowing that the people in that room always had your back, no matter what. You’d learn who got a promotion; you found out where your cousin was going to college. Big or small, what you learned around that table meant something to everyone.

Sadly, times change; people change. Everyone started having their own families and moving away from Grandma’s house. Sure, there were dinners, but they didn’t have the same feel. You had to rush off to get to work, or home to do chores to get ready for the week. All valid reasons, but that dinner table got lonely, even lonelier when Grandma passed away.

She could make one meal, feed everyone and somehow everyone came away full – even the picky eaters. It’s on record that I was Grandma’s favorite; we had a special bond because as my real mom slipped from the picture, Grandma picked up the slack. It gave us time in the kitchen that no one else in the family got, and I also picked up on some of the recipes that she never wrote down. And when she passed, people asked me to write some of those down, which I did.

But you know what? They never tasted the same. Not because I missed on one of the amounts, or forgot an ingredient. It was because those meals weren’t shared around that dinner table with a houseful of people. Meals taste that much better with the company you share it with.

Recently I’ve been cooking Sunday dinners with my daughters. We go to the store, pick out what we want to cook, then come home and I teach them some of the tricks Grandma taught me. No matter what we cook, it tastes a little better knowing it was cooked with both love and tradition.

Start a new tradition this Sunday and share your favorite meal from when you were a kid with your kids. Even if you burn the whole thing, they’ll have a story to tell future generations.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Green up your school lunch

 

Close up of a bento-style lunch with sandwich, fruit, carrots and snack

image credit: Meredith at allrecipes.com

With our children back in school, we may find ourselves stocking up on brown paper bags, zip-close plastic bags, and “lunchable”-type goodies. After all, a well-stocked pantry can make all the difference in having a smooth school morning or an anxiety-filled mad dash for the door.

But let’s follow that lovingly-packed brown paper bag into the lunchroom. Where does it all go when the bell rings, lunch is over, and it’s time to run off to recess?

The EPA estimates that a child who brings a brown bag lunch to school every day throws away about 67 pounds of waste each school year. Other estimates are as high as 90 pounds per student per year. Multiply that by over 58 million students in the U.S. and you don’t have to be a math whiz to realize that millions of tons (between 1.9 and 2.6 million tons for the star students out there) of garbage could stay out of the waste stream with a little tweak to our school morning preparations.

Lunchboxes and lunch bags

First, let’s replace the paper bag with something that is reusable and can hold a little more weight. Have older kids worried about style? Check out the resources below for simple canvas lunch sacks, modern insulated totes, or retro metal lunchboxes.

As we are shopping and doing our best for the Earth, let’s also think about our health. Plastic lunchboxes and containers may contain numerous chemicals of concern, including leadphthalatesvinyl (PVC), and bisphenol-A (BPA). Some brands may infuse Microban®, an antimicrobial chemical (triclosan), into the fibers of a child’s lunchbox. While this may seem like a good idea to avoid germy boxes, health advocates warn of serious health and environmental concerns associated with the chemical. Learn more about triclosan.

For lunchboxes without chemicals of concern, look online or in stores for brands such as Crocodile Creek (PVC-free, phthalate-free, BPA-free), Ecobags (Organic cotton), Kids Konserve (100 percent recycled plastic bottles or recycled cotton canvas). Find many brands and materials (including stainless steel) at Reuseit.

Food and drink containers

The iconic brown paper bag is not a horrible thing in and of itself. After all, it’s what’s inside that counts. The plastic sandwich and snack bags, disposable applesauce or yogurt containers, one-time-use water bottles or drink boxes, etc. that we smartly bought to prepare for the morning hustle are now all in the trash — after only being used for a few hours. Yet, they will last in the waste stream for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Instead invest in a sturdy set of reusable food containers (which can save trips to the store too). Look for stainless steel, which is dishwasher-safe and a great alternative to plastic and glass (no breakage!). LunchBotsKlean KanteenKids Konserve offer stainless steel waste-free lunch kits. If you opt for reusable plastic, look for lead-free and BPA-free, such as Crocodile Creek. Online retailers, such as Reuseit, carry a plethora of options. Also consider insulated food jars to give you and your kids more lunch options (think: warm soup, mashed potatoes, spaghetti and more). Check out Target, Meijer, ACE, or other local retailers for Thermos and Aladdin brands.

Feeling like there are too many small containers to fit into the cute or stylish lunchbox? Check out the latest craze: all-in-one bento boxes, which have two to four compartments in one container.

Be sure to toss in a durable fork or spoon (one that you won’t mind if it doesn’t find its way home) and a small cloth napkin.

OK disposables

For food wrappers that don’t need to be hauled home each day, yet are more eco-friendly than plastic wrap or bags, reach for unbleached wax paper or parchment paper. These come in individual sheets, long rolls, or pre-formed bags. Rolls of unbleached parchment paper and wax paper are available at most grocers. Check health food stores or the health food aisle for disposable wax paper bags, such as those from If You Care.

Drinkboxes and snacks

After this thoughtful preparation, some mornings will still call for a quick grab and go. But you can still be a waste-free hero. Schools or families can collect juice pouches, chip bags, or granola bar wrappers and send them to Terracycle in exchange for a donation to your favorite school or charity. TerraCycle recycles items that most recycling programs won’t accept. Participating brands include CapriSun, Clif Bar, Honest Kids, Kool Aid, Lays and others. Go to TerraCycle to learn more and start a lunch recycling program at your child’s school.

Food

Lastly, it’s not just the containers that get thrown away! Food also winds up in the garbage pail. According to the USDA, Americans waste enough food every day to fill a 90,000 seat football stadium, almost one third of which is wasted at the retail and consumer level. They suggest extending lunch periods to 30 minutes to save 30 percent or more of lunch room food waste. Schools can schedule recess before lunch to save another 30 percent. Visit the USDA’s website for more Creative Solutions to Ending School Lunch Waste.

At home, be sure to involve children in making their own lunches. They will pack what they like (with grown-up approval) and — like anything that requires a bit of effort — they will have pride and appreciation for the end product. Remind yourself and your children to only pack what they can eat in a 20 minute sitting (the standard amount of time allotted for school lunch). Feeling stuck in a PB & J rut? Check the Internet or magazines for fresh ideas; 100 Days of Real Food is one of the many resources out there.

Happy (waste-free) lunching!

– Melissa Cooper Sargent, Environmental Health Educator with LocalMotionGreen at Ecology Center. For more information, you can email her at melissas@ecocenter.org or visit http://www.ecocenter.org/lmg

The eating struggle

 

Angry child eating

Cropped image. Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr. CC license.

The toddler age is characterized by a constant recording of “No.”

“Sweetie, let’s play on the playground?” “No!”

“Honey, do you want to play with your brother?” “No.”

Sometimes the constant “no” makes us feel like we’re going insane. But nowhere is it more vexing than hearing “no” at meal times. No to veggies. No to chicken. No pasta. You get the idea. Ugh! As parents, we’re left in complete frustration and worry. We wonder how we’re going to get the right nutrients into our child. Grandma tries. Grandpa tries. The toddler wins with screaming and crying while our heads pound. Does this sound like you?

Picky eating is common

First of all, I want to reassure you that you aren’t alone. Hundreds of parents face the same struggle as you. Picky eating one of the biggest dilemmas parents face today.

Toddlers go through a normal stage of development called neophobia. In this stage, a toddler will reject foods for no particular reason or pattern. As adults, we take this refusal as preference, but it is a real stage of development. The rule of thumb is to offer a food item to your child at least 10 times. This gives your child the ability to distinguish taste and develop true likes and dislikes. Also, give your child the chance to play with food. Present them with frozen foods such as green beans, corn or peas, and then move to items such as cheese sticks, celery or carrots. Activities with pudding and yogurt are also fun! For most children, if they can play with food then they can accept food.

That’s great advice, but my child is still picky.

If your child continues to reject foods and is at a stage where he or she will eat 15 foods or fewer, it’s time to seek help. It’s important you work with a professional who is a trained feeding therapist. A feeding therapist can be an occupational therapist or speech therapist.

A therapist first checks to see if a child has good strength in the jaw, lip and tongue. If a child doesn’t have that strength, it’s hard to chew or bite food, or even keep food in her mouth. Further, a child with a weak jaw, lip or tongue is at risk for choking. It is likely that she has already choked and remembers.

For some children, their pickiness surrounds delayed eating patterns. Children with delayed eating patterns will not be ready for foods as fast as the charts on Google say they are. These children struggle with the different levels of food and will get stuck at one certain stage. For example, they will only eat Stage 2 foods and not 3, or they will only eat biscuits that breakdown in saliva. They have figured out what is safe.

For other children, it is about the taste, smell or texture. These children are your sensory eaters. They may have different sensitivities throughout the structures of their mouth. They have learned to reject everything except soft foods like cheese pizza, chicken nuggets, and mac and cheese. They become resistant and will limit their diet to less than 10 foods. They will not eat no matter what. These children could require intensive therapy.

Help is available

Picky eating can be helped. There is a solution; it doesn’t have to be a lifetime of struggles. Start by talking to your doctor. If warranted, see a therapist. Trust your gut instinct as a parent. The person who knows your child the best is you. Know that we are there to help you if you need us.

– Magda Girao, OTRL CST-D, works in pediatric rehabilitation at the Beaumont Health Center.

Sugar and the holidays

Dessert tray with cookies and bar cookies

Cropped image. La Citta Vita, Flickr. CC License.

From Trick-or-Treat parties to Valentine’s Day, boxes of chocolate can be a hard time of the year for individuals with diabetes. This is five straight months of caramel apples, turkey and dressing, sweet potato versus pumpkin pie, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes with gravy, ham, cranberry sauce, red velvet cake, fruit cake, apple pie, chocolate-covered strawberries, and sugar cookies with sprinkles. To survive the holidays and still stay on track with your diabetes regimen, you have to have a plan. Below are some tips to enjoy both the sugar and holidays!

Burn to earn

Exercise is a good way to maintain great health during the holidays. Implementing exercise at least 30 minutes a day or a few times throughout the week can help keep your blood sugars in control, as well as decrease your stress levels. So when you have that extra piece of deliciousness you can feel less guilty because you “worked” for it. Treat yourself and enjoy!

Size does matter

That extra piece of deliciousness does not have to be humongous! Remember: The holidays are about sharing so leave some for the next person. If you are hosting a party, consider pre-cutting the desserts and preparing the plates to monitor portions. This way everyone has the same amount and those with diabetes may not feel as though they have less than everyone else.

Eat before you go

There are a lot of holiday parties to attend this time of year. Eating something before you go will help you stay on track and not overindulge. Another thought is to plan what you will eat at the party (if you know what will be served) and eating lighter during the day.

Lovely leftovers

You don’t have to eat everything in one day; besides leftovers are sometimes better the next day! Plan to eat leftovers for the next few days or week. This way you are able to enjoy the deliciousness a bit longer than everyone else and continue to monitor your portions.

Managing your diabetes during the five-month sugar fest is possible. You know yourself and your diabetes best so plan accordingly. If you struggle with self-control, take a friend with you and they can be your sugar sponsor or your designated dessert detour person! Plan to attend a few parties, not all of them. Challenge your friends and family to make the same dishes but healthier and have a contest to make eating healthy and fun. Yes, you can be the taster and judge the contest!

– Carnigee Truesdale-Howard, PsyD, ABPP, Pediatric Psychologist with Beaumont Children’s Hospital Divisions of Hematology/Oncology & Gastroenterology

Seeing Shamrocks? Try Green Super Foods!

Fresh greens and carrots

It’s March! That means it’s one month closer to spring (it can only get warmer at this point, right?) and St. Patrick’s Day is a week from today. This means there’s lots of “green” everywhere you go. However March isn’t the only month we should be seeing green.

Eating foods in a variety of colors should be part of your diet every day of the year. So in the spirit of St. Patty’s Day, I thought I’d share some amazing and healthy green foods.

Eating green isn’t that hard when you think about it. I love bitter foods so I’ll eat almost any vegetable. My 4-year-old daughter loves anything green, but my 7-year-old son won’t even touch his plate if there is anything a shade of that color within a 5-mile radius. But as a typical consumer, one walk down your local grocer’s produce aisle will lead you to many green fruits and veggies and your options are endless. My family’s personal favorite “green” food is avocado!

Avocados

  • What they are: Avocados are actually a fruit. They’re a large berry with a big single seed in the center. They grow on trees and 95 percent of the avocados found in the United States are the “Hass” variety and grown in California.
  • Health benefits: Avocados are high in a variety of healthy fats. They contain around 20 nutrients in total, as well as vitamins B, C, E and K, and phytonutrients (read a more in-depth nutrient analysis here.
    • The “official” serving size of an avocado is only 30 g, which equates to 1/5 of the fruit, but most of us tend to consume about ½ (68 g), which is approximately 114 calories according to a NHANES analysis.
    • Avocado’s dense healthy fat content may be responsible for healthy blood lipid profiles, and aid in vitamin absorption. That study concludes with: “Avocado consumption is associated with improved overall diet quality, nutrient intake, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.”
    • Another paper published in 2013 by Dreher cites studies that have shown some benefits of eating avocados as well. One study by Grant (1960) demonstrated that a diet ranging from ½ to 1 ½ avocados per day helped men lower their total cholesterol levels. Other studies that have shown how avocados may help in weight management and healthy aging were also cited. Time magazine published an excellent article that goes into more details on the powers of avocados.
  • What to look for: When shopping for avocados you want to look for a couple things. If you want to buy them unripe, look for ones that are still green, firm, and have the stem still attached. If you want to eat them relatively soon, look for ones that are soft and dark brown. The best method for ripening your avocado is to place it in a brown paper bag along with a banana peel and leave it on the counter for a few days. If you have a ripe avocado that won’t be consumed quickly, you can place it in the refrigerator.

Kale

  • What it is: A member of the brassica family like broccoli and brussels sprouts. It has long stem with crinkly, green leaves. For the longest time I thought that kale’s only purpose was to garnish salad bars, but now I grow it in my garden and find many ways to enjoy eating it!
  • Health benefits: All deep green colored leafy greens (e.g., broccoli, cabbage, spinach, chard, etc.) contain about the same variety of nutrients. These can include carotenoids; vitamins A, C and D; folate; minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron; as well as lots of dietary fiber. All that means that it’s good for the eyes, bones, blood vessels and brain.
    • One of the most regarded super foods is kale. It’s rich in the vitamins mentioned above, as well as vitamins C and K. Kale’s calcium is more easily absorbed by the body than spinach, and has 1000 percent more vitamin C. It also contains more than 40 flavonoids, which act as antioxidants, containing many anti-inflammatory properties. However because of kale’s vitamin K content, people on blood thinners need to be cautious when eating a diet rich in these greens.
    • It seems like you can find numerous health studies toting the benefits of eating kale. Some of those perceived benefits include lowering your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. The fiber helps promote a healthy GI tract, and helps regulate blood glucose levels, which can be helpful in those suffering from Type I or Type II diabetes. You can read an article on those mentioned health claims and more here.
  • What to look for: Choose bundles with dark leaves; avoid those with yellow or brown spots. You can store kale in the refrigerator in a zip-close or other plastic bag. I like to wrap a wet paper towel around the base of the stem to keep the leaves crisp. Keep refrigerated for up to five days.

Green Tea and Matcha

  • What it is: I’m sure most of us are familiar with green tea, but some people are just now discovering “matcha.” Remember that scene in “The Karate Kid II” when Daniel-san is taking part in a tea ceremony with that lovely Japanese girl? That wasmatcha! It’s essentially green tea ground into a fine powder.
    • Green tea leaves are known scientifically as Camellia sinensis and originate from China although today it’s grown all over the world, including the U.S. The methods for processing the raw leaves vary from location to location, but most are done using the methods used in China or Japan. Matcha, however, is only grown in Japan.
    • The key difference between the green tea used to make matcha and “regular” green tea (like you find loose leaf or in packets) is that the leaves of the plant are covered for a few weeks before harvest. The tea is also prepared differently. While you usually steep or use a press for green tea, matcha requires different instruments such as a whisk and a bowl. The end product is a rich, creamier drink—similar in the way that espresso is to coffee.
  • Health benefits: There seem to be more benefits to matcha over traditional green tea because you are actually consuming the leaves (since they’re ground up), unlike drinking tea made from loose leaves. Nutrient-wise, matcha provides a boost of antioxidants, vitamin C, protein, and minerals such as calcium and potassium. (An excellent table comparing the nutrient values of matcha, green tea, and coffee can be found here.)
    • A class of antioxidants called “catechins” is thought to yield many benefits such as reducing the risk of cancer, improving brain function, lowering your risk of heart disease, increasing fat oxidation, and helping to increase bone density in elderly women.
    • So you can see there are many possible benefits. Personally I enjoy the calming effects it has on the body. It seems to give me an overall sense of well being.
  • Where to buy: If you do an online search, you’ll certainly come across a number of sites that give you fancy names and varieties, but really what it comes down to is finding a brand you enjoy.
    • For green tea (in tea bags) I recommend buying products from Japan, Korea or China, which you can easily do at any Asian grocery store. I like this tea from Amazon, or I pick it up from my favorite Korean store (Han Mi Mart in Troy).
    • As for matcha, you can find it most places online and in some local stores like Teavana. I suggest finding a local coffee shop that offers this type of tea and trying it there, then ask where they get their matcha from. That way you know it’s a brand you’ll like.

A few other green super foods:

  • Kiwi: The little, round, fuzzy balls of fruit are considered to be the most nutrient-dense of the 27 most commonly consumed fruits. They’re full of antioxidants and vitamin C, as well as fat-free, high in fiber, have a low glycemic index, and contain more potassium than a banana.
  • Edamame: Probably the only time I ever eat edamame is when I’m having sushi, but these delicious soybeans are a good source of plant protein; antioxidants; omega fatty acids;  nutrients such as vitamin K, copper, manganese and potassium; and are high in fiber. New research suggests edamame may protect against certain types hormone-dependent cancers such as prostate and breast cancer, but shouldn’t be consumed as much if someone is already diagnosed with one of these cancers.
  • Pistachios: These nuts are a great source of healthy fats that help keep levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) low. They contain antioxidants such as vitamin E to protect cells from oxidation and maintain the integrity of cell membranes. Pistachios are also high in B vitamins and many minerals such as iron, copper, calcium, and magnesium to name a few.
  • Beans: They are full of fiber, high in protein, and are known to help lower cholesterol and decrease your risk of developing diabetes, cancers of the colon, heart disease, and so forth. Not only do they contain fiber, but also antioxidants, vitamins A and B, carotenoids, and minerals such as iron and calcium.

Summary

Green fruits and vegetables all seem to have the same healthy benefits:

  • They are rich in most vitamins.
  • They contain antioxidants, carotenoids, and many minerals.
  • They’re good for the heart (and as one of my professors says, “What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain”).
  • They may help prevent certain types of cancer, aid in vision, boost your immune system, and provide your GI tract with a good source of fiber.

There are numerous health claims for these “super foods”, but one thing I want to caution is that many claims have anecdotal evidence, so it’s important to consult with your doctor or dietitian if you have any questions. As mentioned before, some of these foods may have a synergistic effect with certain drugs and can be very dangerous. With that being said, there’s nothing wrong with trying to incorporate more of these foods in your diet as long as you’re eating a variety and in moderation. I do have some bad news though…

Green beer is not considered a super food.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

– Joohi Schrader, is a nutrition and food science major at Wayne State University, a mother of three amazing children, and a certified Square Foot Gardening instructor. She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.

Sources:

  • Clausener, Andrea. “From Avocados to Yogurt: 15 Super Foods for Super Health.” International Journal of Humanities and Peace 21.1 (2005): 85. ProQuest. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.
  • Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 53.7 (2013): 738–750. PMC. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

Thanksgiving Science!

Turkey wtih rosemary and olives in baking dish

Unaltered image. Ruocaled, Flickr. CC License.

Have you ever caught an episode of the television show “Good Eats,” starring Alton Brown? It was a Food Network show that incorporated science, humor and interesting facts with cooking. Believe it or not, this show is the reason why I decided to go into the food science field. It combined all my favorite elements of science with my other favorite thing: food!

Whenever I cook, I also think about the science behind it. It’s one of my favorite things to share with all of those around me, whether they’re willing to listen or not. My kids are my best audience and, like most kids, they’re little sponges and love sharing the new information they just learned. What a great opportunity to teach and make food fun.

I use almost any occasion to talk about science, but what better time of the year to do this than Thanksgiving? With all the food we’re about to share with loved ones, and all the memories we’re about to make, we can take a moment to learn about a few things like why turkey makes us sleepy (does it?), the differences between sweet potatoes and yams, and how to cut onions without crying. I even have a link to a few experiments that you can do at home!

Turkey Talk. Many of us blame the turkey for our post-dinner drowsiness, but is the amino acid tryptophan really to blame? About Education has a newly updated article on the matter. It turns out that the food coma we experience is actually due to a combination of factors such as carbohydrate, fat and alcohol consumption (or overeating in general).

A Tear-Free Onion Experience. If you cook, you’re most likely all too familiar with the searing eye pain that comes with chopping onions. Why does this happen? Well, in short, those fumes that radiate from the onion actually contain a form of sulfur that, when in contact with the fluid of your eyes, combines to produce sulfuric acid! This article by Popular Science goes into more detail about this reaction, and you can find even more kitchen science within the article.

What steps can we take to prevent this reaction from happening? The author suggests chilling the whole onion for 30 minutes before cutting. An episode of “Good Eats” once taught me to cut onions next to the faucet with the water running so that the sulfur mixes with that water and not my eyes! It works!

Pass the Yams. Candied yams. Sweet potato pie. Can you tell the difference between a yam and a sweet potato? This article helps decipher the difference between the two tubers. If that isn’t helpful, check out this is useful flow chart.

Typically a sweet potato will have orange flesh when you cut it open. This also means, nutritionally speaking, that it contains over 100 times the amount of vitamin A than its white-fleshed counterpart, the yam! Aside from vitamin A, both are similar nutritionally and provide a good source of fiber.

Turkey Timers. Ever wonder how those little plastic sticks can tell you when a turkey is done? Did you know they are reusable? Read “How Pop-Up Turkey Timers Work”.

More Kitchen Science. If you’re interested in obtaining the perfectly cooked bird, creamiest mashed potatoes, or the flakiest crust, Popular Science offers a Turkey Day Chemistry in the Kitchen page.

Fall Leaves Falling. I also found an interesting podcast by Robert Krulwich, of NPR’s series “Radiolab” (my fave!). It explains why leaves fall from trees! Listen to it here. Maybe while you’re preparing (to eat) all that food?

Experimentation! I frequently visit Steve Spangler’s science blog for fun tricks and experiments for the kids. Here you can find an array of experiments, along with their videos. Keep guests of all ages entertained!

I hope you enjoyed the kitchen science I shared with you in this post. Maybe one of these topics will be brought up during your dinner discussion and you can share your newfound knowledge with those around you. Most importantly be sure to have fun, relax, savor the food and time with your loved ones, and be sure to make memories. If you want to see a Thanksgiving episode of “Good Eats”, you can find it here.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!

– Joohi Schrader, is a nutrition and food science major at Wayne State University, a mother of three amazing children, and a certified Square Foot Gardening instructor. She’s also a Parenting Program volunteer.

The “Green” and Healthy Holiday Table

Thanksgiving dinner on a table

This Thanksgiving, approximately 278 million Americans will sit down with family or friends to enjoy a holiday meal. Traditional Thanksgiving dishes include cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, baked macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, and of course, turkey. In each of these special dishes, love—not unexpected chemicals—should be the only secret ingredient. Simple tips can help you keep unnecessary toxics off your holiday table.

The Main Course

  • Turkey and other meat. Look for Antibiotic-free.
    USDA Organic, which ensures that an animal is given 100 percent organic feed, has year-round access to the outdoors, and isn’t given growth hormones or antibiotics,can be hard to find. But, antibiotic-free meat is more readily available.

    • Why: Antibiotics are routinely given to livestock and other farm animals to promote growth or to fend off illness due to unsanitary conditions. In fact, approximately 80 percent of antibiotics used in the United States aren’t administered to sick people, but are fed to generally healthy farm animals. This can lead to antibiotic resistance in humans, which can make treating a basic injury or infection (like a child’s scratched knee or an ear infection) a health emergency. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the 2011, 2012 and 2013 outbreaks of multi-resistant Salmonella have all been traced to ground beef and poultry. Drug-resistant bacteria can remain on meat from animals. When not handled or cooked properly, the bacteria can spread to humans. Learn more about how Beaumont Health System recently took a stand against antibiotics in food. Other terms to consider or be aware of:
      • No Hormones Administered. This term is approved for beef that hasn’t been treated with natural or artificial growth hormones. Hormones aren’t allowed in raising poultry and hogs.
      • Natural. Meat labeled as “natural” contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed. This term doesn’t indicate how the animal was raised or fed, or whether or not it was treated with antibiotics or synthetic hormones.
      • Free Range. Poultry has access to the outside. Size and description of the outside isn’t defined; it could merely consist of a cement slab. This term doesn’t mean the animal is pasture fed.
      • Amish Raised. Talk to the farmer or distributor about growing practices. There are no guidelines for this term.
      • Bio-accumulation. Remember to eat lower on the food chain whenever possible. Many environmental contaminants accumulate in animal fat and increase further up the food chain.

All the Fixings

  • Milk and Cheese. Opt for organic when possible.
    USDA Certified Organic dairy products are readily available at all major grocery stores.

    • Why: Toxics accumulate in animals and can be passed on through the milk. Organic dairy comes from animals raised without genetically modified organism (GMO) or pesticide-laden feed, growth hormones, or antibiotics.
  • Fruits and Veggies. Choose fresh or frozen.
    This is especially true for cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie and dishes that may contain canned goods. Fresh ingredients taste better and don’t haveto be more complicated. Buy beans, grains and dry goods in bulk whenever possible. Also look for packaging made of glass, paper, cardboard or aseptic cartons. Remember to support local farmers and farmers markets.

    • Why: Most cans are lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA). Plastic wrap and plastic tubs can contain phthalates, such as DEHP. Both BPA and DEHP are plasticizers and can migrate into the food within the container, especially acidic ingredients (like tomatoes) or fatty ones (like dairy). Both BPA and DEHP are endocrine disruptors linked to an array of health effects ranging from reproductive disorders to neurological impairments, obesity, and cancer. These two chemicals are also similar in that food and food packaging are considered the major source of exposure for those most at risk: children. (Sources: Environment and Human Health, Inc., National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, BPA: Uncontained Danger).
    • Some companies use alternatives to BPA in some or all of their canned products. Check here for BPA-free cans. The Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff lab is currently testing food packaging for toxic chemicals. You can sign up to receive report releases and other updates at www.healthystuff.org.

On a Budget

  • Save money and reduce toxics.
    Check the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which lists conventionally grown produce that is consistently low in pesticides as the Clean Fifteen™ and those highest in pesticides as the Dirty Dozen. EWG estimates a 92 percent reduction in the volume of pesticides consumed when choosing five servings a day from the Clean Fifteen™ compared to the Dirty Dozen™. Remember organic or not, the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables outweigh risks of pesticide exposure.
  • Here are a few tips:
    • Replace potatoes with sweet potatoes, which are consistently lower in pesticides.
    • Onions, corn, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant, cabbage and mushrooms are all on the Clean Fifteen™.
    • Get creative with sauces made from pineapples or mangoes; they are on the Clean Fifteen™.
    • Opt for organic for apples and celery; they are consistently at the top of the Dirty Dozen™. Also look for organic peaches, spinach, bell peppers, lettuce, and kale or collard greens.

Why: Pesticides can weaken the nervous, immune and reproductive systems, disrupt hormones, and cause a range of illnesses. The U.S. Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 recognizes that children are more susceptible than adults to harm from pesticide exposure through food.

Leftovers

  • Use ceramic or glass, instead of plastic when using the microwave.
    • Why: BPA, DEHP and other chemicals in plastic migrate into food more readily when plastic is heated.

– Melissa Cooper Sargent, Environmental Health Educator with LocalMotionGreen at Ecology Center. For more information, you can email her at melissas@ecocenter.org  or visit http://www.ecocenter.org/lmg. 


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