Summer Food Safety

11 Aug

Summer is in full swing filled with picnics in the park and poolside barbecues, but in the midst of all the fun with friends and family, it’s important to understand the risks of food born illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one in six Americans become ill from contaminated foods and beverages each year. The threat of food poisoning can lead to serious health issues including gastrointestinal problems and dehydration. Here are 5 quick and convenient food safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Pack Up Properly: Consider the foods being transported and what the proper means of storing them should be. For grilling, be sure to separate raw meats and other uncooked items in tightly sealed containers away from cooked dishes and produce in the cooler. The risk of mistakenly consuming raw meat can result in E. coli poisoning, Salmonellosis and other harmful bacterial contaminators.
  2. Be Allergy Aware: Be conscious of diet restrictions (vegetarian, vegan, etc.) and allergies (nuts, shellfish, gluten or lactose intolerance, etc.) and to ensure certain foods are kept away from one another for packing and mealtime. In some cases, a printed recipe card with ingredients for each dish can be helpful for guests or discussing the menu in advance.
  3. Prepare for Germs: Make room in the car for paper towel, hand sanitizer or disposable towelettes to keep your space clean before, during and after mealtime. Prior to unpacking, be sure to wash hands and wipe surfaces thoroughly, especially when at playgrounds or swimming pools. Clean grills, especially those uncovered, to avoid the threat of animal waste and viruses or bacteria.
  4. Avoid the Temperature Danger Zone: One of the most important safety measures to keep in mind when handling food is to stay away from the temperature danger zone, which ranges from 41 to 140 degrees F. It pertains to cooking, storing leftovers and reheating foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food Safety and Inspection Servicereports that bacteria grows rapidly outside of this zone, doubling in as little as 20 minutes. Purchasing a food thermometer at a nearby dollar store is a useful tactic in managing the risk on picnic/barbecue days.
    • Hot Foods: Cooked items, whether they are brought to the party or prepared onsite, should always stay at or above 140 degrees. This can be done by using hot packs, chaffing dishes and slow cookers. You can even create a hot box in a cooler with warmed bricks wrapped in towels. Foods can also be kept on the grill at a low temperature to stay warm.
    • Cold Foods: Placing gallon bags of ice or towel-wrapped dry ice beneath food containers can keep veggies, fruits and other cold items at or below 41 degrees. If space in the cooler is limited, freeze water bottles, yogurt tubes and/or juice boxes to use as a means of keeping food items cold. This way, the family can also stay hydrated with the items as they thaw.
  5. Dodge Dehydration: With children and busy families, it can be helpful to set timers throughout the day to remind everyone to drink water and take a break from summer fun to get hydrated. Believe it or not, water is not the only way to do so. These foods can easily be integrated into a summer menu and contain a high percentage of water to keep the body hydrated: Celery, Cucumbers, Grapefruit, Peppers, Oranges, Strawberries, Tomatoes and Watermelon.  Image result for food safety

August Blueberry Festivals

9 Aug

Summertime in Michigan means a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables growing throughout the Great Lakes state.

We can celebrate fresh eating at farmers markets, corner stands and even festivals but the time is right to celebrate blueberries, now in season through August.

Packed with fiber, low in calories and loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants, Blueberries are a great addition to your diet.   The superfood has also been linked to improving memory, fighting against cancer and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Celebrating Blueberries

There are multiple festivals happening in Michigan during blueberry season, all of which offer fresh, family-friendly fun.

  • National Blueberry Festival, South Haven – The 54thannual National Blueberry Festival will be held Aug. 10-13. The festival includes a basketball tournament, live music, downtown sidewalk sales, paint and wine classes, blueberry pancake breakfasts and more.
  • Montrose Blueberry Festival, Montrose – This hometown festival takes place Aug. 16-20. Take in a classic car show, pie eating contest, arts and crafts show and more. Parades, races and a carnival mean there’s fun for the entire family to enjoy.
  • Wild Blueberry Festival, Paradise – Celebrate the growth of wild blueberries at this festival, which runs from  Aug 18-20. Enjoy art, music, nature and of course, food. While you’re visiting Paradise, make sure to experience the nearby natural beauty with stops at Tahquamenon Falls and Lake Superior.

Breakfast…or “Dessert”?

4 Aug

Are you starting off your Morning with Breakfast…or Dessert?

Many breakfast foods can be high in calories, sugar, carbohydrates…or all three! Some popular examples of these foods include pancakes with syrup, muffins, glazed donuts, flavored yogurt, granola, waffles with whipped cream and fruit, flavored bagels, and breakfast sandwiches with sausage, cheese, etc.  These “dessert” foods are often disguised as “breakfast” foods.

Did you know that a basic brownie contains 12-15 grams of sugar and a normal 6 ounce serving of strawberry yogurt contains 18 grams of sugar? The yogurt has more sugar than the basic brownie! Plain non-fat yogurts of any brand are always the better option. These yogurts have less calories and sugar per serving and are a good source of calcium.

The quantity of what you eat for breakfast is very important. Read cereal labels carefully. Most cereals are higher in sugar. When looking for a cereal, it is best to pick one that lists whole grain as one of the first ingredients, select sugar free options, and do not to eat more than one serving.

Eggs are an excellent choice for breakfast. Eggs contain the perfect balance of ample fats, carbohydrates, and protein, which will help to give a fuller feeling and suppress appetite longer. Selenium is found in eggs and is a valuable mineral. Selenium neutralizes certain oxidative stress in our body. Eggs also contain lutein, which is an antioxidant that can help to eliminate environmental exposure to free radicals. For breakfast you want to eat something with fiber, protein, and good carbohydrates.

Fruit is another great breakfast option. Fruit is composed of natural sugar, vitamins, and minerals, which will help with immediate energy and stamina.  Fruit is also sweet and will satisfy your cravings for sugar without adding unnecessary fat and calories.  Fruits are also an excellent source of dietary fiber.

So next time you sit down for breakfast, think about whether the food you pick up is really “breakfast”…or is it “dessert”?

Cooking Without Oil

3 Aug

A lot of recipes have some type of oil in them for cooking and sautéing, however, you can cook without the extra added unnecessary fat in oils. You do not need oil for flavor, for texture or even for keeping things from sticking to your pans. Here are some suggestions for healthier meals without compromising the flavor of the dish.

  • Use water in place of oils for meals cooked on stovetop.If a recipe calls for oil, you can heat up the pan adding 1-2 tablespoons of water. Once the water becomes bubbly, proceed with the recipe as you normally would. Add more water to prevent the food from sticking to the pan.
  • Steaming is the simplest way to cook vegetables without oil. If you do not have a steamer, you can steam veggies in a flat-bottomed pan. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and bring it to a boil. Add your vegetables and cover tightly. Cook for 1-2 minutes, remove from heat and let steam for 4-5 minutes. Do not add any spices until the end to bring out the best flavors.
  • Nonstick cookware such as pots and pans with ceramic coating helps prevent foods from sticking without having to use oil.
  • Parchment paper will help prevent foods from sticking to the pan when baking. This works best for anything that would call for greasing the pan first. You can bake meatloaf, casseroles, quiches, tofu, potatoes and vegetables on parchment paper. Baking foods on low will also help keep them from sticking. If you would like your potatoes or vegetables a little crisper towards the end of baking, turn the oven temperature up or put the baking pan in the broiler for 1-2 minutes.
  • Medical Weight Loss Clinic salad dressings make a good marinade to sauté meats and vegetables in. Heat up the pan, put the MWLC salad dressing in the pan, add the meat or vegetables and cook over medium to low heat until the meat is cooked thoroughly and the vegetables are tender. The dressing base will add a robust of flavor. You can also use the MWLC salad dressing to sauté fresh herbs and spices in, such as garlic.
  • To bring out the flavor in spicy dishes or garlic, you can squeeze a little juice from a fresh lime or lemon in the bottom of the pan, add the garlic or spices and toast on low heat. You can also squeeze the juice from a fresh lemon or lime over potatoes and vegetables before frying or roasting in the oven.

Benefits of Watermelon

3 Aug

Watermelon may be a favorite Summer snack, but there’s more benefits to this fruit than just a sweet flavor!  Celebrate ‘National Watermelon Day’ but slicing into this juicy fruit.

Benefits of Watermelon

1. Watermelons are mostly water! Made up of over 90% water, snacking on this fruit will help you stay hydrated during the Summer heat.  The water and fiber content in this fruit will also help you feel full, without all the extra calories (one cup of watermelon contains only 46 calories!)

2. This naturally sweet fruit is an easy, healthy dessert for Summer picnics. Just slice and serve!  (Fun tip:  Use cookie cutters to cut watermelon into shapes for kids!)

3. Watermelons are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It’s a great source of Vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as potassium!

Herb Ice Cubes

27 Jul

Looking for a way to add flavor to your beverages or an easy way to add flavor to your next meal?  Try adding fresh herb ice cubes!

Freezing is a simple and excellent way to preserve fresh herbs.  Freezing herbs makes it easy to always have fresh herbs on hand to use in cooking meals and for beverages.  If a recipe calls for broth, instead use plain water mixed with fresh herbs and spices to avoid extra sodium.  You can also toss pre-made herb ice cubes into sauces and soups if broth is called for or if you want to add extra flavor.

To Make Herb Ice Cubes:

Wash herb(s) of choice gently and dry.  Mince herb(s) by hand or in a food processor.  Place minced herb(s) into ice cube tray (about 2 Tbsp. per cube), filling each cube about 3/4 full.  Fill tray with boiling water (this will blanch the herbs, helping them retain their fresh flavor and color), then freeze.  Once frozen, place cubes in freezer bags and store.  When ready to use, just simply drop in an ice cube while cooking!

Suggested Herbs to Use:


(Parsley Pictured Above)

Tips for Healthy Eating While Camping

17 Jul

Do you have a camping or hiking trip planned this Summer? You can eat healthy while camping and hiking with a little pre-planning and preparation.  Follow these tips to make sure you have a healthy and safe outdoor adventure.

Make a Plan and Stay Hydrated

During physical outdoor activities, your body typically needs more food and water. Pack plenty of fluids for hot weather excursions. Make sure to stay hydrated, drink water before you start your hike or bike trip and make sure you pack extra to keep hydrated throughout your trip.  Eat a well balanced meal before you start off on your adventure and make sure to pack plenty of snacks to help keep your energy levels up while on your excursions. Pack light weight foods and snacks. You can pack perishable foods, such as sandwiches and wraps, just be sure you have a small portable insulated cooler with ice packs to keep foods chilled properly Here are some snack ideas for an outdoor day trip:

  • Fresh fruits – cut up melons, berries, and pineapple stored in baggies. Also you can freeze grapes, cherries and blueberries beforehand to help them stay cold.
  • Cut up fresh vegetables such as cauliflower, celery, carrots, broccoli and peppers. Store in baggies to save space in your backpack or cooler.
  • Pre-make sandwiches or wraps with tuna fish or grilled chicken.
  • Take rice cakes or diet snack crackers for a quick easy snack.

Camping for Several Days

Packing food to last for several days at a time can be challenging. With a little pre-planning and meal prep, you can prepare healthy foods at home before you leave. Map out the meals you want to eat each day. This will also cut down on your meal prep while camping, giving you more time to relax or enjoy your time with family and friends. Here’s some quick tips for healthy eating when camping:

  • Prepare and cook your meats at home, grilled chicken, shrimp, hamburger patties, a roast in the crockpot, boil eggs for hard boiled eggs and tuna packed in water.
  • Wrap cooked meats in foil and store in gallon sized baggies – store in a cooler and just warm over the campfire or portable grill before each meal.
  • Cut up vegetables for sautéing with protein options, making fajitas, or stir fy over the campfire or just snacking on them raw throughout the day.
  • You can also cut up fresh fruits and store in stackable containers or baggies. Take apples and oranges for a quick, on the go fruit.
  • Take easy starches like tortillas for wraps, rice cakes, diet snack crackers and english muffins.
  • If you have a way to boil water you can take couscous, long grain rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes.

Cooking Safely While Camping

It is always important to follow good food safety practices. Perishable food cannot be kept out in hot weather (90°F or higher) for more than one hour, and in mild weather for more than two hours. Having the proper safety essentials are a must – make sure to bring the following items:

  • Disposable wipes, moist towelettes, hand sanitizer or biodegradable soap
  • Bowls and plates
  • Kettle or cooking pot
  • Eating and cooking utensils
  • Ice packs
  • Compostable trash bags
  • Portable water filters or water purification tablets
  • Gallons of fresh water for cooking with
  • Thermometers for cooler and cooked meat
  • Well insulated coolers. 2 or 3 coolers work best if you have the room. One to keep raw meats separate from cooked foods. One for the cooked foods and the other for your beverages.

Have a healthy Summer!

Original Article Here:

Fruit and Vegetable Infused Water

7 Jul

Infused water is an excellent way to add flavor to traditional drinking water and increase your water intake.  Be creative with fruit and vegetable combinations to create a drink with great flavor and color, without the added sugar and calories!

Suggested Ingredients:
Peaches, pitted and cut into wedges
Strawberries, quartered
Cucumbers, sliced
Lemons, cut into wedges
Limes, cut into wedges
Oranges, cut into wedges
Watermelon, cut into wedges
Mint leaves
Basil Leaves

Place desired servings of fruit, vegetable or herb into a pitcher or glass.  Fill glass or pitcher with water and ice, if desired.  Refrigerate until chilled and drink cold.  Enjoy!

Original Article Here: