Pumpkins: Not Just for Carving Anymore

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As a kid, I grew up carving pumpkins as a decoration for Halloween and having pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. A long time ago, my father told me that his relationship to pumpkins was quite different from mine. To my father, who grew up on a farm in Sicily, pumpkin was a squash to be eaten. My father said he would saute slices of pumpkin in olive oil; oil from the olives grown and pressed on his family’s farm. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

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New Food in School?

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Have you been wondering how, for as long as you can remember, pepperoni pizza and French fries fit into the meal pattern for lunch at school? How is it possible that foods high in fat, sodium and calories are able to make the grade as nutritious lunch choices for students? All that is about to change. As part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed new nutrition standards for school meal programs. Many of us in the nutrition community are very excited about the new set of standards since they propose to add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals while reducing the levels of sodium and saturated fat in those meals. These same nutrients are found in the Guiding Stars system used to rate the nutritional value of foods.

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Trick or Treat?

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The long standing tradition on Halloween is for children to roam the neighborhood dressed up in spooky garb asking neighbors for treats, namely candy. If a treat was not forthcoming, then the children could play a “trick” on that neighbor. With all we know about the negative impact on our health from too much sugar consumption, especially for children, who is really getting tricked in this situation?

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Nuts About Berries

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When human beings were truly hunters and gatherers during the Stone Age, nuts and berries were an important part of our diet. Think about how much easier we have it now since our hunting and gathering can take place at the local supermarket and farmers’ market. Take advantage of this ease and consider including these foods in your diet every day. Studies show that berries, nuts, colorful vegetables and fatty fish provide health benefits important to today’s lifestyle. Here are some ideas on how to enjoy these foods and why they are important to your health.

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Parents! Market to Your Kids

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Kids are exposed to almost 8,000 food advertisements each year. That means that they are seeing about 21 ads for food every day. Most of these ads are for junk foods or those that are high in sugar, salt and fat and low in the nutrients that promote healthy growth and development. Studies show that the more time a child spends in front of the TV, the more likely that they will be overweight or obese. With 1 out of every 3 children in the U.S. being overweight or obese, reducing TV and screen time can help to improve the health of our children. What can be done to help our children with screen time?

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MyPlate & YOU

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While the MyPlate icon is more intuitive than the previous MyPyramid which showed what we should eat on a daily basis using a triangle, the plate could still use some interpretation and education to make sense out of the recommendations regarding what to eat. First of all, what foods are included in these groups? It was not exactly clear even to me as a registered dietitian, so I dug a bit deeper and reviewed the contents of the MyPlate website. While knowing which foods are within each section of the icon is important, the real opportunity to eat healthy is to choose the most nutritious options from each of the food groups.

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