01, February 2015 9:00 AM

Love is in the air during February. Hearts, chocolate and more are on the menu this month with these family meal ideas featuring all five food groups.

February Family Meal Recipes 

DASH of Health

Mexican Lasagna, Jicama Salad with Chile and Lime, and Honey Baked Bananas; plus Brussels Sprouts with Sherry Asiago Cream Sauce, Creamy Banana Walnut Oatmeal, Tandoori ChickenBalsamic Yogurt Grilled Vegetables.

Chocolate and Cherry

Chef Meg's Cocoa Crusted Pork Tenderloin, Cold Cherry Soup and Roasted Bananas with Chocolate Yogurt Cream; plus Chocolate Chili, Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal, Cod with Spicy Orange and Black Cherry Sauce, with Couscous, Chocolate Mocha Mudslides.

Really Exceptionally Delicious (RED)

Tuscan Tomato Turkey Burger, Cold Beet Soup (Chukandar Soup) and Strawberry Banana Blast; plus Red, White and Green Grilled CheeseFrozen Strawberry Yogurt Mini Pies, Citrus-Ginger Roasted Beets and CarrotsBroccoli and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta.

Super Spuds

Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes, Winter Squash Soup, and Boston Lettuce Salad; plus Garlic Roasted Red Skin Potato Soup,  Pork Tenderloin with Dijon-Fennel Rub + Sweet Potato Fries, Sweetie Pie QuesadillasGarden Potato Salad.

Tags: balanced meals DASH family meals food group foods holidays Potato Lovers Month recipes Super Bowl Valentines Day
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

23, January 2015 12:59 PM

With the popularity of information sharing on sites like Facebook and Twitter comes the risk of perpetuating inaccurate and even harmful information, photos and "urban legends". As a result, services like Snopes and Fact Checker offer consumers reasonable guidance on separating fact from fiction online. 

The access to information provided online raises the same concerns for sharing inaccurate or exaggerated nutrition claims. Luckily, the Food and Nutrition Science Alliance (FANSA), a partnership of nationally recognized and credible health organizations, is dedicated to providing accurate nutrition information to consumers and health professionals. The combined membership of FANSA organizations includes more than 120,000 food, nutrition and medical practitioners and scientists.  

The Alliance developed the following 10 “red flags” of junk science to help consumers recognize exaggerated or false claims:

1. Recommendations that promise a quick fix
2. Claims that sound too good to be true
3. Simple conclusions drawn from a complex study
4. Recommendations based upon a single study
5. Dramatic statements that are refuted by a reputable scientific organization
6. Recommendations based upon studies without peer review
7. Recommendations based upon studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups
8. Dire warnings of danger from a single product
9. Lists of “good” and “bad” foods
10. Recommendations made to help sell a product, or by the manufacturer itself 

For more information, read the article "How to Separate Fact from Fiction.”

Teachers in middle school or high school may want to use this text in the classroom as a critical thinking activity that aligns with English Language Learning (ELA) Common Core State Standards to help students distinguish between fact and marketing hype. Sample activities:

  • Ask students to bring in a magazine article with advertisements or health claims. With a partner, have them identify articles/ads that seem “too good to be true” and discuss why they would question the findings.

  • Have each pair create a check-list of ways to affirm that an article is scientifically sound, and then have pairs share their ideas with the class.

So the next time you read something online or hear about the "next best thing" when it comes to nutrition, take a moment to try and spot any of these red flags. Until then, please continue to eat moderate portions of variety of foods from all five food groups. It might not sound terribly exciting, but it's sound nutritional science.

Tags: Healthy eating healthy eating patterns nutrition research
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

13, January 2015 3:08 PM

“It’s Not Nutrition Until It’s Eaten!” This is the theme of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California (SLM of CA), a coalition of seven agencies across California dedicated to low or no-cost ways to make the healthy choice the easy choice in the school lunch line. As part of its commitment to community health, Dairy Council of California and the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California are offering online and in person trainings to help school foodservice personnel reduce plate waste and increase student nutrition.

The SLM was created by the Cornell Center’s for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program (the BEN Center) and is based on the research-based strategies of using behavioral economics to nudge children to make healthy choice. The BEN Center has since driven the SLM through Food & Brand Lab research with school environments and implemented SLM principles into schools across the country. SLM is a grassroots effort where changes are made within the school lunchroom environment that nudges kids towards making more healthful foods like fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk.

The Smarter Lunchrooms core values include:

  • Low Cost/No-Cost Solutions
  • Focus on Lunchroom Environment
  • Promotes Healthful Eating Behaviors
  • Sustainability

The Smarter Lunchrooms six principles are:

  • Manage Portion Sizes
  • Increase Convenience
  • Improve Visibility
  • Enhance Taste Expectations
  • Utilize Suggested Selling
  • Set Smart Pricing Strategies

In conjunction with the California School Nutrition Association (CSNA) meeting in late 2014, representatives and proponents of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement in California gathered to showcase their best practices and results at a recent reception. Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction (pictured at right), congratulated SLM school districts on making the healthy choices the easy choice. Torlakson, a long-time advocate of student health, remarked on the success of the SLM initiative statewide and the partnership of the seven agencies has now trained over 150 California public school districts and over 500 staff in less than two years.

"CSNA is dedicated to the professional growth and learning of our members. I am happy to see school foodservice professionals in California joining the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement," said CSNA president Agnes Lally (also pictured at right). "Having the support of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California collaborative partners is providing the training and support to engage us in activating this movement within our schools."

SLM continues to grow in California, due in part to the USDA’s adoption of SLM into mandated student wellness policy and award programs. California partners, Kaiser Permanente, California Department of Education, Dairy Council of California, UC Cal Fresh Nutrition Education Program, California Food Policy Advocates, the California Department of Public Health, The California Endowment and Cornell’s Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs will host training sessions statewide during March and April 2015. 

Read more on the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California, including a listing of the dates and locations for trainings. Additionally, the SLM of CA has launched a Technical Advising Professional network to provide hands-on support to districts, following their training program. The Smarter Lunchroom Movement of California is indeed moving!

Tags: community health Healthy eating smarter lunchrooms
Categories: categoryNutrition Education

07, January 2015 3:52 PM

nutrition calculator helps examine food choices to create a healthy eating plan

Nearly half of Americans make some kind of New Year's resolutions, so we're offering a new, streamlined tool to help those resolution makers achieve success with a healthy eating plan. 

In just three easy steps, the all-new Healthy Eating Planner helps you assess your eating habits, learn basic health and nutrition recommendations and set a realistic goal for improvement.

Planning for Success

Step One: set your benchmark. The Healthy Eating Planner helps you review your eating habits and examine your food intake to determine areas for improvement. Progress, not perfection, is the goal here. Do you tend to skip breakfast? Do you prepare meals at home? These questions are designed to help you examine your habits to identify areas for improvement and goal setting.

Step Two: learn how you are doing.  A nutrition calculator helps you to examine how your eating patterns compare with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Are you eating balanced meals with enough food group foods? By identifying your individual health concerns and life stage information, you'll receive personalized recommendations and tailored information in order to create a plan in step three.

creating a healthy eating plan with this nutrition calculator

Step Three: make a plan. Setting small, achievable eating and activity goals based on the information shared in steps one and two is the third and final step in creating the healthy eating plan. These goals focus primarily on adding activities and foods to your diet rather than restricting choices. 

If you're interested in creating healthier eating and activity habits in the New Year, take a moment to complete the Healthy Eating Planner and let us know what you think. For additional information, this series of articles explores some of the science behind setting goals and creating healthy habits.

Maureen Bligh, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Tags: Healthy eating healthy eating patterns Maureen Bligh nutrition calculator
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

01, January 2015 8:00 AM

The New Year is a wonderful time to start instilling healthy habits like family meals or meal planning. To help you in these efforts, here are the weekly themes and recipes we'll be sharing all month long.

January Family Meal Recipes 

Low and Slow 

Hungarian Beef GoulashNoodle Kugel and Chocorazz Smoothies; plus Pulled Pork with Carmelized OnionsApple Yogurt ColeslawZesty Meatball Sandwiches and Slow Cooker Oatmeal.

Healthy Eating Planner

Skillet Gnocci with Chard and White Beans, Peanut Butter Pork Skewers and Apple Dippers; plus Ziti Alfredo with Vegetables, Low Fat Cha Cha Chalupas, Basil Green Beans and All Natural Oatmeal Banana Cookies.

Winter Produce

Root Vegetable Gratin, Rosemary Oven "Fried" Chicken, Cinnamon Stewed Apples, Lower Fat Parsnip and Potato Cassarole, Roasted Pears with Cheddar Crumble, Sweet Potato Gnocci with Light Bolognese, Polenta with Winter Squash, Gorgonzola and Walnuts.

Egg Month

Sunday Sausage Strata, Ginger Almond Pears, Green Tea Smoothies, Italian Tomato Eggs, Banana Cinnamon French Toast, Avgolemono Chicken Soup, Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Red Onions, Hard-Boiled Eggs, Capers, and Tarragon.

Tags: family meals Healthy eating healthy eating patterns
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

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