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Food borne illness prevention tips

clean upMany food borne illnesses – which can be caused by a variety of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites – are caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. While most of the food in the U.S. can be considered safe, food can become contaminated at any point in its preparation.  There are many simple food safety rules that we can all practice in our home kitchens to keep our food safe. Here are a few:

Hand Hygiene

  • Wash hands when they are dirty. A good rule to follow is to wash your hands when you come home from being outside. (Just think of all the things you have touched when out shopping, running errands, etc.)
  • Wash hands before handling food, and before and after eating.
  • Wash hands after handling pets and other animals.
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Practice cough etiquette by coughing (and sneezing) in the crook of your arm.

Wash Surfaces

  • Keep kitchen surfaces such as countertops, cutting boards and other appliances clean.
  • Check your can openers and clean them after each use.
  • Wash dishcloths, sponges and towels often. Use hot water. *Tip: put sponges in your next dishwasher load to clean them.
  • Replace worn sponges frequently.

Cutting Boards

  • Whether you use wood, plastic, acrylic, glass or other type of cutting boards the key is to designate one strictly for raw meats and another for ready to eat foods such as breads, fruits and vegetables. Try using color-coded cutting boards. Designate a certain colored cutting board for vegetables and another colored board for meats to help you remember which one to use.
  • Keep cutting boards clean by washing them thoroughly in hot soapy water after each use; or place them in the dishwasher after each use. The safest way to clean ‘meat’ cutting boards is to wash them with hot water and then disinfect them with bleach or other sanitizing solution. Keeping a spray bottle with bleach by your kitchen sink may be convenient.
  • Discard cutting boards that have a lot of scratches or knife scars, cracks, crevices, splinters, etc.

Prevent Cross Contamination

  • When storing raw meats, place them on a plate and store them on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so their juices don’t inadvertently drip onto other foods.
  • If washing produce before use, store in clean containers not their original one.
  • Wash plates and other containers between use or use different plates to hold raw meats and other foods.
  • Use one utensil to taste the food and a different one to stir the food.
  • If you have a cut or other sores on your hands use gloves.

Proper Cooking Temperatures

  • Cooking food to proper temperatures is a reliable way to reduce the risk of food borne illnesses.
  • Using a food thermometer is important to ensure that food is cooked to a safe temperature.
  • To ensure that red meats, chops, poultry etc. are cooked to their proper temperature, insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the meat away from bone or gristle.
  • Insert thermometer in the inner thigh area near the breast, but not touching the bone when cooking whole poultry.
  • For egg dishes and casseroles, insert thermometer in the center or thickest area of the dish.
  • For ground meat foods, insert thermometer into the thickest area. You may have to insert it sideways to reach the very center of a burger patty, for example.
  • When cooking fish, cook until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Refrigerate Promptly

  • Make sure your refrigerator is set below 40º F.
  • Foods should not stay out of refrigeration for longer than two hours. In very hot weather, food should not stay out for longer than one hour.
  • When in doubt, check this website for more information about general guidelines about refrigeration leftovers: http://homefoodsafety.org/

Keeping your food safe once you bring it home is important to keep you and your family healthy.  For more information on home food safety visit: http://homefoodsafety.org

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup

butternut squash soupBeing lactose intolerant I have to watch my consumption of dairy. As much as I like cream based soups, they don’t like me. So whenever I come across a smooth textured hearty soup that does not call for cream, I get a little excited.  This recipe caught my eye as it calls for an in-season ingredient (squash) and one of my other favorite ingredients, ginger.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and halved*
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons (1-inch) slices fresh chives
  • Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a roasting pan or jelly-roll pan; toss well. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Cool 10 minutes.
  3. Place half of squash mixture and half of broth in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture and broth. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with chives and pepper, if desired.

Yields six 2/3 cup servings.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories:   112
Total fat:   2.5 grams
Saturated fat:   0.4 grams
Monounsaturated fat:   1.7 grams
Polyunsaturated fat:   0.3 grams
Protein:   3.3 grams
Carbohydrate:   22.4 grams
Fiber:   3.6 grams
Cholesterol:   0 mg
Sodium:   266 mg

*shallots: are similar to onions and garlic. They can be used like an onion, however grows in a bunch like garlic.  They have a milder taste than most onion

Recipe from: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/roasted-butternut-squash-shallot-soup-10000001854009/

Build A Better Sandwich (and how it fits into MyPlate)

 Sandwich for lunch, anyone? Take advantage of this simple lunch creation to increase your vegetable intake. Whether you are making the sandwich at home, buying it or creating it at one of the work cafeterias, you can COLORIZE your sandwich. 
 
Lettuce, onions and tomatoes are commonplace on a sandwich, but consider “sandwiching” in additional fruits and vegetables. Add pizzazz to sandwiches with sliced pineapple, apple, peppers, cucumber and spinach as fillings. You can also try sliced tomatoes, olives, pickles, onions, lettuce, bean sprouts, avocado or herbs.
 
First, start off by choosing a lean source of protein. Roast beef, ham, turkey or chicken may be some choices to consider. When choosing protein, check the amount of sodium in prepackaged and even deli-fresh meats since most run high. You can cut the sodium by roasting your own meat at home for a sandwich, or simply ask at the deli counter for a low sodium alternative. You can also create a veggie sandwich by choosing a bean burger, or simply create a roasted veggie sandwich. Get creative. Use cream cheese, hummus or avocado.

Make healthy choices with MyPlate

What do the Incredible Hulk and MyPlate have in common?

Two things: One, they both include the color green, and two, they are both celebrating a birthday!

The Incredible Hulk is celebrating its 50th anniversary (it first appeared in 1962), while MyPlate will be celebrating its first year this June.

One year ago, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced their new and improved health food icon, MyPlate, which replaced MyPyramid.

As MyPlate celebrates its first birthday, it also wants to remind Americans that it is possible to eat healthfully at every meal. MyPlate illustrates easy and fun ways to make healthy food choices by encouraging consumers to make half of their plate fruits and vegetables, and to choose whole grains, lean proteins and low fat dairy.

MyPlate also encourages Americans to balance calories by increasing the intake of healthy food and decreasing high fat/high sugary foods in their daily diet.

One strategy to make dinner plates look more like the new USDA’s healthy eating icon is to colorize! That is, filling most of the plate with different colors. Continue Reading »

Score a goal this March for National Nutrition Month

March 1 began National Nutrition Month®, a nutrition education and information campaign celebrated annually in March and sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme for this year is Get Your Plate in Shape, which highlights the five components of the new healthy eating icon, MyPlate.

  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables: Consuming fruits and vegetables can help in the prevention of chronic diseases. The key to benefiting from all of the nutrients available in fruits and vegetables is to eat a variety of them. Think dark-green, red and orange vegetables; or red, green or purple fruits. Add fresh, dried, frozen or canned fruits to meals and snacks.
  • Make at least half your grains whole: Read the ingredient listing on foods to make sure you are choosing 100 percent whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers and pasta. Switch from white to brown rice to incorporate more whole grains in your life. Continue Reading »

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