Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hot Topic - The 5 Second Rule May Be True

E. Coli, Staph aureus - nasty germs and the cause of many food borne illnesses.  Senior biology students at Aston University School of Life and Health Sciences looked at the following foods:
  • dry toast, pasta, biscuit, and sticky sweet bun
And the following floors:
  • carpet, laminate, tile
Foods were allowed to come in contact with flooring for 3 to 30 seconds.  Carpet had the least transfer of bacteria and laminate and tile the most.  (Carpet fuzz is another story.) The sticky food picked up more bacteria than the dry food.  Time of exposure was significantly linked to bacterial transfer to food. So, the 5 second rule is not just an old wives' tale.

The students also surveyed people about their use of the 5 second rule - 87% said they have or would eat food dropped on the floor.  You are not alone.
In the interest of full disclosure, a study at Clemson University in 2007 found the transfer of Salmonella (another nasty germ) to bologna and bread was instantaneous. It could be the type of germ.  It could be the fat and protein content of the tested food.  It could be just how dirty that floor was to begin with - compare a city sidewalk to your mom's kitchen floor that was so clean you could eat off of it (we used to say).

So, what's the bottom line?  Wash your hands!  That is the best thing you can do to prevent food borne illness.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Watch What You Eat. Watch What You Watch.

It's just a good idea all the way around.  Monitoring your kids' media consumption, that is.  I like that phrase better than "screen time" as it connotes that we need to watch what we watch, just as we watch what we eat or what we consume.  Most parents know less TV/video/phone/game/tablet time may mean better grades, but there's more. 

We end up in a positive loop when we limit media consumption.  Better sleep, better concentration, better grades and so on.  And even a lower BMI.  And less aggression.  A recent study reported in JAMA Pediatrics indicated all those benefits accrue from monitoring children's media consumption.  Parents are empowered by realizing that being more involved in their child's media consumption may impact a wide range of healthy behaviors.
I imagine it works for mom and dad, too.  Better sleep, better concentration at work, more time for active play, less stress, lower BMI.  Try it.  Watch what you watch.

Source:  JAMA Pediatrics, May 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act - What's In It For Your Kids?

Here is my latest guest blog for Food & Nutrition Magazine's Stone SoupThe HHFKA: A Top 10 List.

It touches on the good parts of the legislation as well as the controversial parts, currently making headlines.

There is also a little known clause in the long HHFKA regulation called "paid equity".  The price of a school lunch for paid students must eventually equal the subsidy the federal government pays for free students.  Translation - what's in it for your kids may be a price increase.  Look for that when school starts this fall.

Also, don't be surprised if your student comes home and mentions things the school no longer sells, for example, certain snacks or treats they may have occasionally enjoyed in the past.  New snack regulations for things sold outside of the school meal (snacks, vending, school stores, fundraisers) take effect now too.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my guest blog about school meals.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Snacks

In the summer, having more free time, taking road trips, and spending days at the beach or pool all can lead to more snacking.  Snacks are now defined as anything smaller than a meal.  According to a recent report from the Hartman Group, a consulting firm that focuses on consumer culture, snacks now represent half of our eating occasions.  Snacks are also bound by fewer "rules" than meals.

The report, "Modern Eating: Cultural Roots, Daily Behaviors" looks at physically driven, emotionally driven and socially or culturally driven eating.  Snacks can meet all three different consumer needs.  With food and beverages available 24-7 in our culture, consumers often snack even when they have no desire for food or drink - what the researchers call "aimless snacking".
Other than summer schedules, researchers acknowledge that things like the demands of work, commuting to and from work, raising families, social interaction, holidays, kids’ after-school or weekend activities tend to throw the traditional view of mealtime out the window.

The report goes on to give advice to food companies, restaurants, and marketers to help them meet the needs of consumers. Health minded consumers can remain in control and practice mindful rather than aimless snacking by:
  • Plan ahead:  pack a cooler.
  • Depart and return on time so that mealtimes stand a chance of being honored.
  • Keep snacks in your desk or car - snacks that you have chosen for their nutritional merits rather than grabbed from the vending machine or drive through.
  • On the road?  Plan when and where you will stop to eat.  Decide what you will choose before you hit the drive through or see the glossy photos on the menu.
  • Portion snacks as soon as you get them home from the store so they are at the ready. This includes washing and chopping or slicing veggie snacks.
  • Make a menu.  Sounds old-school?  It is, but it works.  If you plan it/buy it/defrost it, you are much more likely to eat it.
  • Rethink schedules - lazy days of summer, not having sports practice every night of the week, and staying home are okay. 
  • Family mealtimes are as important as anything else you may schedule.
  • Look at your physical, emotional, and social/cultural prompts to eating and reconsider your response.