Cooking with Kids during the Holidays

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The holidays are all about spending time with family, so it is the perfect time to teach your kids about cooking and healthy nutrition. Kids enjoy helping in the kitchen and are also more likely to eat foods that they help to prepare. Teaching children at a young age about preparing healthy meals promotes a lifetime of good nutrition habits.

First, take this opportunity to teach your kids about safe food handling practices. Be sure that everyone washes their hands with soap and water. Ideally, you should lather your hands with soap for 20 seconds, or the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or the Alphabet song twice.
Next, be patient and allow extra time when cooking with kids. It will take them longer to practice using new cooking skills. You can also expect more mess than usual, so you may want to lay down a table cloth to catch spills and be sure that everyone wears aprons.
When you are cooking with children, focus on introducing them to the basics. For example, let younger children crack and egg, stir several ingredients together, pour liquids, or press cookie cutters. Older children can read the steps of the recipe, practice measuring different ingredients, rinse vegetables, and cut food with a table knife.

This is a good opportunity remind your children about holiday food safety tips. It is never safe to eat anything containing raw eggs, including cookie dough. When you have leftovers, be sure to refrigerate them promptly. Store your leftovers in an airtight container within two hours of cooking the food. Your refrigerator should be set at below 40°F and your freezer below 0°F.
Finally, make cooking fun! Your children will learn to love cooking if the atmosphere is relaxed and fun. Start with basic recipes, and let them enjoy the process. Take advantage of the holidays and share your favorite recipes with your children.

Christmas Pasta with Tomato, Spinach and Mozzarellapasta
Ingredients:
• 1 box whole grain spaghetti
• ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 2 bunches of spinach, trimmed and washed
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes
• Pinch of salt and pepper
• ¼ cup Mozzarella cheese

Directions:
• Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add a splash of olive oil.
• Add spaghetti to the boiling water. Stir gently.
• Boil uncovered, stirring occasionally for 7-8 minutes.
• Remove from heat and drain well.
• In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and tomato. Cook until tomato skins start to soften.
• Gradually add spinach and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Season with a dash of salt and pepper
• Serve the sautéed spinach and tomatoes over the cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese.

Yield: 6 servings
Nutrition per serving: Calories: 364, Protein: 15 g, Fat: 12 g, Carbohydrate: 56 g, Fiber: 10 g, Sugar: 4 g, Sodium: 161 mg

Happy & Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving typically includes some of our favorite traditional foods such as turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, or pumpkin pie as we celebrate with family and friends. As Americans, we often tend to splurge on extra calories during the holidays which leads to the typical American gaining 1-2 pounds each year during the holidays. In fact, the average American consumes about 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat from the traditional Thanksgiving meal. This means to burn off your Thanksgiving meal you would have to run for 7.5 hours or walk for 15 hours! It is important for us to remember that just because Thanksgiving only comes around once a year doesn’t mean we have to throw our healthy habits to the curb. Try the tips below to keep your healthy habits in check during Thanksgiving celebrations.

1. Make sure to eat breakfast in the morning before any celebrations, this will prevent you from overeating at other meals during the day.
2. Continue your current exercise routine, try adding a new exercise or increasing the amount of time you exercise to burn extra calories.
3. Monitor your portion sizes closely and avoid going back for seconds.
4. Evaluate the table of food before choosing what you would like to eat, try to pick foods you don’t have all of the time instead of those that you can have all year.
5. Lighten up your traditional Thanksgiving foods by using fat-free and low sodium broth, sugar substitutes, fruit purees to replace oil in baked goods, and plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes, or casseroles.
6. Eat slowly to allow time for your stomach to signal your brain when you are full.
7. Limit alcohol, holiday alcoholic drinks can add up in calories quickly, try having a glass of red wine in place of other higher calorie alcoholic drinks.
8. Limit sugar sweetened beverages, as an alternative try bottled flavored water or create your own flavored water by adding fresh fruit, cucumbers, or mint.
9. Use whole grain bread and flour in recipes, whole grains provide more fiber that will help fill you up and keep you full.
10. Remember the main reason for Thanksgiving is to spend time with family and friends.

Try this lighter version of a traditional Thanksgiving recipe:

Light Green Bean Casserole

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3 tbsp. canola oil
1 medium sweet onion (half diced, half thinly sliced)
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp. onion powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
2/3 c whole wheat flour
1 c low-fat milk
3 tbsp. dry sherry
1 lb. frozen green beans
1/3 c plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp garlic powder

Serving Size: ¾ c, makes 6 servings

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat a 2 ½ -quart baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, ¼ tsp salt, thyme, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom juices are almost evaporated, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle 1/3 c flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add milk and sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in green beans and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in Greek yogurt. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
3. Whisk the remaining 1/3 c flour, paprika, garlic powder, and the remaining ¼ tsp salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion; toss to coat. Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with any remaining flour mixture and cook, turning once or twice until golden and crispy, 4-5 minutes. Spread the onion tipping over the casserole.
4. Bake the casserole until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Adapted From: http://www.eatingwell.com

Healthy Holiday Food Safety Tips

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The holidays are a time of family, food and fun. The last thing anyone wants around the holidays is to be sick which could table all of the planned holiday celebrations. To prevent contracting a foodborne illness, follow these tips to stay healthy and happy this holiday season.

Thawing a Turkey
Thawing of a turkey can be done properly in three different ways: via a refrigerator, microwave, or cold water. If thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for every four to five pounds of turkey you plan to cook. For example, a 16-20 pound bird could take up to five days to thaw in the refrigerator. You can also thaw in cold water but allow 30 minutes per pound. Seal the turkey securely in plastic to make sure no water leaks in and use cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes and cook it immediately once thawed. Don’t forget you can also use the microwave but before buying a turkey be sure it will fit in your microwave and use the owner’s manual to determine minutes per pound and the power level to thaw it. Remove all outside wrapping including the wire that holds the legs together and place on a microwave safe dish.

Proper Cooking Temperatures
Make sure to use a meat thermometer to check temperatures. For any of the following, make sure to cook to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit: turkey, chicken, stuffing, duck, goose, quail, pheasant, ham heated as leftovers, and any other leftovers. For egg dishes, venison, ground beef, pork, veal, or lamb, cook to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. For beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks, chops, or roasts, or fresh or raw ham, cook to 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allow it to rest three minutes prior to cutting.

Storing and Reheating Leftovers
It is inevitable that there will be leftovers. If so, make sure to store all leftovers in airtight, shallow containers that are two inches deep or less. Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers within two hours of cooking. Make sure your refrigerator is below 40 degrees and your freezer below zero degrees Fahrenheit. For refrigerated leftovers, make sure to eat within three to four days. For frozen leftovers, use within two to six months. Regardless of how many days have passed, when in doubt, throw it out! To reheat leftovers, bring to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and bring gravy to a steady boil on the stove before serving.

Practicing Proper Sanitation and Hygiene
Make sure everyone handling food washes their hands before, during, and after food preparation. Keep kitchen surfaces clean with hot, soapy water throughout meal preparation. When preparing foods, make sure to use two cutting boards: one for raw meat and the other for ready-to-eat foods like fruits and vegetables. Make sure to wash fruit peels that can contain bacteria. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.

Following these simple steps can keep you healthy and happy this holiday season! For more information on home food safety, visit http://homefoodsafety.org/ for more information.

Popcorn

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Popcorn is a popular snack in American households today; in fact Americans consume 16 billion quarts of popcorn annually, which is about 52 quarts per person. It is safe to say that Americans consume more popcorn than any other country in the world!

Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? Many people don’t realize that popcorn is a whole grain, and when cooked properly, can be a nutritious snack loaded with health benefits. Popcorn is high in fiber and antioxidants, in particular polyphenols which are found in a wide variety of plants and have shown to decrease free radicals in the body that can lead to disease and illness. In fact, a serving of popcorn contains more antioxidants (polyphenols) than a serving of fruit!

It is important to remember that microwave or movie theater popcorn is loaded with butter and extra salt that quickly turns a healthy snack into an unhealthy snack. In order to keep popcorn a healthy snack, purchase popcorn seeds at the store and pop them yourself at home using the stove or an air popper. This allows you to control what is added to the popcorn and can keep it the healthy whole grain snack that it is. Instead of adding butter and salt try adding other spices and seasonings such as chili powder, garlic powder, or parmesan cheese. Try the recipe below for a tasty, healthy popcorn snack!

Lemon-Parmesan Popcorn
Serving Size: 2 cups
Ingredients:
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp salt
1.5 oz grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ c un-popped popcorn kernels

Directions:
1. Combine lemon rind, black pepper, salt, and parmesan cheese in a small bowl.
2. Heat oil to medium size sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add popcorn kernels and cook until popping slows or stops. Let stand in the pan for 1 minute. Pour 6 c of popcorn into a large bowl and mix with half of the cheese mixture then poor the other 6 c of popcorn into the bowl and cover with the remaining cheese mixture. Toss popcorn to coat.
Nutrition Information per Serving:
Calories: 128, Fat: 7.2 g, 4.4 g protein, 11.6 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fiber, 189 mg sodium
Recipe Source: http://www.cookinglight.com

National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month. Currently, more than 29 million Americans, or 9% of the U.S. population, have diabetes with another 86 million Americans with prediabetes. It is projected that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050. Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to properly use and store glucose (or blood sugar) and it backs up in the bloodstream causing one’s blood sugar to rise which over time can lead to complications.

Diabetes causes 50% of all cases of kidney failure, more than half of all amputations in adults, and more than half a million American adults with diabetes have advanced diabetic retinopathy which can cause severe vision loss. About 60-70% of people with diabetes also have mild to severe forms of nerve damage and diabetes doubles the risk for heart disease or stroke.

Wondering if you or someone you know is at risk for developing prediabetes or diabetes? Here are some of the risk factors for developing diabetes:
• 45 years of age or older
• Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
• Being overweight or obese (BMI >25)
• African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander decent
• For women, having had gestational diabetes or a baby greater than 9 pounds or a history of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
• Hypertension or high blood pressure
• Elevated LDL (“lousy”) cholesterol or triglycerides and low HDL (“healthy”) cholesterol
• Being physically inactive or not getting enough exercise

Take this one minute quiz from the American Diabetes Association to determine your risk of developing diabetes: http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/diabetes-risk-test/.

The good news is that people with diabetes can lower their risk of complications by knowing and having their ABC’S within goal range and most insurances will cover for diabetes supplies and diabetes education with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist or a Certified Diabetes Educator.

• A is for A1C test. This is a blood test that measures average blood sugar levels over the past three months
• B is for Blood pressure
• C is for Cholesterol
• S is for stopping smoking