Choosing from the Protein Foods Group

The United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) issued the following information sheet as an aid for shopping and preparing foods from the Protein Foods Group.

image of foods from protein foods group

 Go Lean with Your Protein Foods Group Choices:

    • Start with a lean protein choice:
      • The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (eye of round, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
      • The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
      • Choose extra lean ground beef. The label should say at least “90% lean.” You may be able to find ground beef that is 93% or 95% lean.
      • Buy skinless chicken parts, or take off the skin before cooking.
      • Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are the leanest poultry choices.
      • Choose lean turkey, roast beef, ham, or low-fat luncheon meats for sandwiches instead of luncheon/deli meats with more fat, such as regular bologna or salami.
    • Keep your protein lean:
      • Trim away all of the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking.
      • Broil, grill, roast, poach, or boil meat, poultry, or fish instead of frying.
      • Drain off any fat that appears during cooking.
      • Skip or limit the breading on meat, poultry, or fish. Breading adds calories. It will also cause the food to soak up more fat during frying.
      • Prepare beans and peas without added fats.
      • Choose and prepare foods without high fat sauces or gravies.

Vary Your Protein Foods Group Choices:

    • Choose seafood at least twice a week as the main protein food. Look for seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, and herring. Some ideas are:
      • Salmon steak or filet
      • Salmon loaf
      • Grilled or baked trout
    • Choose beans, peas, or soy products as a main dish or part of a protein fortified meal often. Some choices are:
      • Chili with kidney or pinto beans
      • Stir- fried tofu
      • Split pea, lentil, minestrone, or white bean soups
      • Baked beans
      • Black bean enchiladas
      • Garbanzo or kidney beans on a chef’s salad
      • Rice and beans
      • Veggie burgers
      • Hummus (chickpeas) spread on pita bread
    • Choose unsalted nuts as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes as your protein. Use nuts to replace meat or poultry, not in addition to these items:
      • Use pine nuts in pesto sauce for pasta.
      • Add slivered almonds to steamed vegetables.
      • Add toasted peanuts or cashews to a vegetable stir fry instead of meat.
      • Sprinkle a few nuts on top of low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.
      • Add walnuts or pecans to a green salad instead of cheese or meat.

What to Look for on Your Choices from Protein Foods Group:

    • Check the Nutrition Facts label for the saturated fat, Trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium content of packaged foods.
      • Processed meats such as hams, sausages, frankfurters, and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the ingredient and Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake.
      • Fresh chicken, turkey, and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of __.”
      • Lower fat versions of many processed meats are available. Look on the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less fat and saturated fat.

Keep It Safe to Eat:

    • Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
    • Do not wash or rinse meat or poultry.
    • Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and counter tops in hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next one.
    • Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so juices don’t drip onto other foods.
    • Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms. Use a meat thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat and poultry, to make sure that the meat is cooked all the way through.
    • Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
    • Plan ahead to defrost foods. Never defrost food on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Thaw food by placing it in the refrigerator, submerging air-tight packaged food in cold tap water (change water every 30 minutes), or defrosting on a plate in the microwave.
    • Avoid raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs and raw or undercooked meat and poultry.

Source: USDA, ChooseMyPlate.gov

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A Low Carbohydrate-High Protein Diet: Is it Safe?

It seems that we are always being bombarded with news about the ever-expanding American waistline. There is often a new diet rage to follow. While others go to extremes, many of us, in an effort to lose weight quickly, embrace a low carbohydrate-high protein diet.

Low carbohydrate-high protein diet

The low carb-high protein diet has become popular because of the short-term effects on weight control, but concerns have been raised about the potential cardiovascular effects over the long term. Studies exploring the issue have given mixed results, but three European studies showed a greater risk of cardiovascular mortality with such a diet.

Findings about a Low Carbohydrate-High Protein Diet

If you are on one, or thinking about going on one, please consider the findings of a study that followed young Swedish women over 15+years that was reported online in BMJ (an open-access peer-reviewed medical journal).

  • Consuming a low carbohydrate-high protein diet, like the Atkins diet, may be associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease in women.
  • A low carbohydrate diet implies low consumption of whole-grain foods, fruits, and starchy vegetables. and consequently reduced intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A high protein diet may indicate higher intake of red and processed meat and thus higher intake of iron, cholesterol, and saturated fat. These single factors have previously been linked to a higher risk of major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
  • A healthy diet plan for you needs to be a diet that considers your current health and medical conditions. The place to begin is with a visit to your physician, a physical, and a discussion about an eating plan and exercise tailored to your needs and health.
  • When it comes to loosing weight and keeping it off. there are really no quick fixes.  Denying your body the nutrients it needs. over long periods of time will only damage your health.

 

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Keeping Foodborne Illness Out of the Lunchbox

You can reduce the chance of what the USDA calls a serious public health threat…foodborne illness in the lunchbox. 

lunchboxHere are six top tips for keeping foods safe in a lunchbox.

  1. If you’re packing meats, eggs, yogurt or other perishable food, use at least two freezer packs. Harmful bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Juice boxes can provide another option: freeze some juice boxes overnight to use with at least one freezer pack. The frozen juice boxes will thaw by lunchtime.
  3. If there’s a refrigerator at school or work, find a space for your lunch. Remove the lid or open the bag so the cold air can circulate better.
  4. Use an insulated, soft-sided lunchbox or bag instead of a paper bag. Perishable food can spoil more quickly in a paper bag.
  5. For a hot lunch like soup, use an insulated container. Make sure the container remains tightly closed until lunchtime.
  6. And finally, throw out all leftover food, used packaging and paper bags.

Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, reminds us that not all illness comes from the food. It can come from a lunchbox that is not properly cleaned, or from the area where the lunch was prepared.

Please remember that:

  • A dirty lunchbox may contain bacteria that can make a youngster  sick.
  • A lunchbox picks up a lot of grime in a day.
  • Kids don’t always wash their hands before handling their lunchboxes and food.
  • It’s a good idea to put a small bottle of antibacterial gel with a tight-fitting lid in your child’s lunchbox. Your child can use the gel when there isn’t a chance to wash with soap and water before eating lunch.
  • Kids should avoid setting down their food on the table. Include a paper towel, a piece of wax paper, or even a small fabric place mat in your child’s lunchbox that can be washed at home to help keep food off surfaces that may have been used by a number of youth and adults.

When packing a lunchbox:

  • Start with clean hands, a clean work surface and a clean lunchbox.
  • Disinfect kitchen surfaces, such as kitchen equipment and refrigerator handles, regularly.
  • Also clean cutting boards, knives, dish-drying towels and sponges or dish cloths daily.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before packing them.

 

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Empty Calories Taste Good but Have No Nutrients

Empty calories are calories that don’t give us the nutrients we need. Here is what MyPlate.gov. a division of the Dept. of Agriculture, has to say about foods that taste good, but contain empty calories.

picture of sweet treats that have empty caloriesMany of the foods and beverages Americans eat and drink contain empty calories. These are calories that come from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.
Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories. The foods and beverages that provide the most empty calories for Americans are:

  • Cakes, cookies, pastries, and donuts (contain both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks (contain added sugars)
  • Cheese (contains solid fat)
  • Pizza (contains solid fat)
  • Ice cream (contains both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs (contain solid fat)

These foods and beverages are the major sources of empty calories, but many can be found in forms with less or no solid fat or added sugars. For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than in the regular product.

In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories. These foods are often called “empty calorie foods.” However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. Some examples of foods that provide nutrients, shown in forms with and without empty calories are:

Food with some empty calories Food with few or no empty calories
Sweetened applesauce (contains added sugars) Unsweetened applesauce
Regular ground beef (75% lean) (contains solid fats) Extra lean ground beef (96% or more lean)
Fried chicken (contains solid fats from frying and skin) Baked chicken breast without skin
Sugar-sweetened cereals (contain added sugars) Unsweetened cereals
Whole milk (contains solid fats) Fat-free milk

Making better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef, can help keep your intake of added sugars and solid fats low.

A small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy.

It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or by decreasing the amount you eat or drink.

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What About Those Other Foods?

foodsa

 Many of us are good at reading the nutritional labels on the foods we buy, but what about the other labels that some foods carry. What about labels such as “fat-free,” “reduced calorie,” or “light.”

Here are some definitions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health that might be helpful:

Calorie terms:

  • Low-calorie – 40 calories or less per serving
  • Reduced-calorie – at least 25 percent fewer calories per serving when compared with a similar food
  • Light or lite – one-third fewer calories; if more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced by 50 percent or more

Sugar terms:

  • Sugar-free – less than 1/2 gram sugar per serving
  • Reduced sugar – at least 25 percent less sugar per serving when compared with a similar food

Fat terms:

  • Fat-free or 100 percent fat free – less than 1/2 gram fat per serving
  • Low-fat – 3 grams or less per serving
  • Reduced-fat – at least 25 percent less fat when compared with a similar food

Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie free. People tend to think they can eat as much as they want of fat-free foods. Even if you cut fat from your diet but consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.

Also, fat-free or low-fat foods may contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium to make up for the loss of flavor when fat is removed. You need to check the food labels carefully. For example, a fat-free muffin may be just as high in calories as a regular muffin. So, remember, it is important to read your food labels and compare products.

Finding the nutrient content of foods that don’t have food labels:

When you get a pound of salmon in the meat department of your grocery store, it doesn’t come with a Nutrition Facts label. The same goes for the fresh apples or eggplants that you get in the produce department.

How do you find out the nutrient content of these foods that don’t have food labels?

You can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database. This is a bit harder than using the Nutrition Facts label. But by comparing different foods you can get an idea if a food is high or low in saturated fat, sodium, and other nutrients. To compare lots of different foods at one time, check out the USDA’s Nutrient Lists.

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