Monday, March 31, 2014

100th Post! An Update to My Introduction

When I was a school teacher, the 100th day of school was always a time to celebrate and it still is.  For the little kiddos, counting to 100 is a big deal and putting it in terms of how long they've been in school makes it a number they can conceptualize.  As the dietitian for a school district, I planned healthy snacks with pretzel sticks and cucumber slices to make the number 100.

Well, this is my one hundredth post. It's time to update my introduction.  When I started this in September, I wrote that I would "just do it" and see where it went.  I've decided the greatest benefit of blogging has been exercising my writing muscle.  Yes, that is a skill that requires training and a blog is a great way to do it. 

Another benefit to me is that it has prompted me to keep up with current research and translate it into layman's terms and practical, brief pieces of information and advice.

In looking at the Labels I put on posts, I seem to write most about Menu Planning, School Food, and Hot Topics (recent research related to food and nutrition).

In looking at the statistics on posts, those about meal planning and family meal ideas seem to be the most popular. Surprising to me, the most popular post was one with a recipe, something that I didn't think I would do much of because there are so many recipes sites and blogs. 

Not too many of you were interested in my backyard chicken stories.  Oh well, they bring me pleasure. Sometimes this blog is as much a journal as it is an advice column.

Another interesting stat is that for the first few months of the blog, Russia, Malaysia and Germany took second, third and fourth spots in the Audience stats that Blogger provides.  Now it is Poland, China in second and third.  Truly the worldwide web.

Thank you for browsing,


Friday, March 28, 2014

School Daze-The Ultimate Taste Test

Here's an article from the local paper on step two in the recipe development to cycle menu journey for school lunches:  School Lunches Put to the Test

Guest chefs and cafeteria staff started with a Chefs Challenge to create new dishes (see blog post from March 12, 2014 ) and now students taste tested the recipes - the ultimate taste test.  Jamaican Jerk Chicken over Brown Rice was a winner and some other dishes received constructive comments.

The next steps in the journey include locating affordable ingredients from suppliers, analyzing and adjusting the recipe for nutrition targets, fine tuning recipe instructions, photographing what the final product should like it, fitting it into the cycle menu and demonstrating it for cafeteria managers.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hot Topics - Lunch Ladies on the Loose!

Hold on to your hairnets!  This weekend is the annual conference for the School Nutrition Association of Virginia.  Many states have these organizations and there is a national School Nutrition Association.
Dedicated lunch ladies (and I say that with pure affection) will meet to learn and celebrate.  Sessions include marketing, financial management, cooking demonstrations, regulatory updates, food allergies, and more.  School foodservice product vendors will offer samples and information about exciting new products.

When is the last time you had lunch in a school cafeteria?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's In My Garden Now? First Day of Spring!

With the crazy weather flipping between 60s and sleet, I found myself loading fire wood for our wood stove into a wheelbarrow while wearing flip flops.  But, on one of those 60s days, I was able to plant the following:

Sugar Snap Peas
Red Potatoes
Mesclun Mix Lettuce

Here's hoping the soil in the raised beds was warm and toasty to carry those precious little seeds through the sleet days.

We are enjoying the crocus, daffodils and tulips reminding us of the promise of Spring.  Happy First Day of Spring!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts - On the Label

Here is Part 3 (and the final) of a mini-series on the proposed Nutrition Facts label makeover.

I talked about the Dietary Guidelines in a previous blog and how they are the basis for food and nutrition policy in the US.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) discuss nutrients of concern in the American diet.  These are nutrients for which the US population is consuming inadequate amounts and which are associated with the risk of chronic disease.  USDA highlights calcium, potassium, Vitamin D and fiber.  FDA calls them  nutrients of public health significance and includes calcium, potassium vitamin D, and iron. Calcium and iron already are required on nutrition facts labeling; vitamin D and potassium are being proposed to be added to the list of mandatory nutrients. This is good.

Vitamin D is important for its role in bone development and general health, and intakes among some population groups are inadequate.   Adequate potassium intake is beneficial in lowering blood pressure and intakes of this nutrient are also low among some population groups.

Listing Vitamins A and C will now be voluntary - we are doing quite well with getting adequate amounts of those vitamins in our diet.  Interestingly, fiber, USDA's fourth nutrient of concern, is not addressed in the proposal.

Some other minor changes in the proposed label regs include formatting, such as moving % Daily Value (%DV) percentages from the right to the left.  Daily Values (DV) are either intended to tell you the max you should have, as with Saturated Fat, or the minimal target amount you should have, as with Iron.  Daily Values (DV) are used to calculate the percent daily value (%DV) which is what you see on the label.  This puts the amount in the food whose label you are looking at as a percent of the typical (or mythical) 2000 calorie per day diet.

Again, here is a picture of the proposed label.  So, below, 8g of Total Fat is 12% of the max amount of Total Fat someone on a 2000 calorie per day should have.  Not all nutrients are linked to calories.  Below, the 160 mg of Sodium is 7% of the max amount of Sodium most Americans should consume per day-at any calorie level.

I promise I will not show you the math behind both of those calculations.  I'm not that kind of blogger. Just know that there is some good info coming to a Nutrition Facts label near you.  And it is up to you to know how to use that info.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chefs Challenge

Here's a snapshot of some of the work we do in Child Nutrition Services.  Take a look at our Chefs Challenge made-for-TV style cook off.  We partnered with local chefs to create new dishes for our student customers.  This was a fun training day!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hot Topics-Take Time and Take 3 for Breakfast!

In honor of National School Breakfast Week, take a look at my post in Food and Nutrition Magazine's blog Stone Soup.

Take the time to plan for breakfast.  Take the time to eat breakfast.  And take 3 food groups for a healthy breakfast.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Nutrition Facts - Calories and Added Sugars

Here is Part 2 in a mini-series on the proposed Nutrition Facts label updates. Nutrition Facts labels were introduced 20 years ago by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Part 1 discussed the proposed change to serving size information.   Another proposed change is to display Calories more prominently.  But it's not all about the calories, is it?  What about nutrient density?  Here is a sample proposed label.

Think about 2 drinks with about the same number of calories, a can of cola and chocolate milk.  Oh, okay, since calories are the "go to" info on the nutrition facts label now, I guess I can drink either one.  Let's look a little farther down the label.  Sugars will be about the same for both.  But now, the really helpful new information on the proposed label, Added Sugars will reveal quite a bit.  All the sugar in cola will be "added" while the delicious natural sugar in milk will not. Only the chocolate flavoring will be added sugar.

Further reading of the label will reveal the power packed nutrient density of milk, versus cola. But more on that in part 3 of this series.

I teach students about added sugars using applesauce packaging, comparing the grams of sugar in unsweetened versus sweetened applesauce. Now they will be able to see exactly what is added versus what is from a natural, deliciously sweet apple.

Perhaps Added Sugars should be in the big bold font, rather than calories, especially since the Dietary Guidelines tell us that Solid Fats and Added Sugars are the foods to avoid in the American diet.  Sodium also made that worst dressed list.  Remember, the Dietary Guidelines, updated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  every 5 years and are the basis for federal food and nutrition policy and nutrition education. 

Solid Fats were addressed when trans fat labeling requirements took effect several years ago.  By looking at Trans Fat on the label, we can see if artery clogging fats are in our food.  Adding information about Added Sugars is a huge help for nutrition educators and for those attempting to educate themselves about what is in their food.