Friday, June 26, 2009

Choosing Spreads

Commercials for popular bread spreads talk about the type of fat and quantity of fat they contain but when they throw all those numbers out there it can get confusing. How do you choose which spread to use on your bread?

Margarines are made from oil and other than diet or lite margarines most margarines have about the same amount of fat in one teaspoon – 5 grams. The major difference in stick, tub and squeeze margarine is the saturated, trans and unsaturated fat content.

When it comes to reading labels look for margarines that have a low total amount of saturated and trans fats. Don’t let ads mislead you by only talking about trans fat content since BOTH saturated and trans fats will contribute to the risk for heart disease. Here is an example of what to look for.

This is the label from a tub margarine and you can see that the trans and saturated fat together equal 1.5 grams.

This next label shows a stick margarine and you can see that the saturated and trans fat together equal 5.0 grams so even though the tub margarine has trans fats it has Less total, harmful fat.

Next time you head to the market to purchase margarine make sure you refer to the nutrition facts panel to see what you are really buying.

* Values derived from 2002 USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 15

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Enjoying Summer Produce

One of the delights of summer is the availability of fresh produce. Heading to a local market or even the chain supermarkets is a treat when you see all of the brightly colored fruits and vegetables but do you know how to pick the best produce?

Choose produce by how it looks feels and smells. Look for produce that is free of cuts and bruises and at various stages of ripeness to allow for consumption over a period of time. Store produce as soon as possible and clean before using to preserve nutrition.

When it comes to selecting the best produce follow these tips from “The American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide”, 3rd edition, 2006.

Blueberries – plump, firm berries with a light-grayish bloom.

Cantaloupe – Slightly oval fruit, 5 inches or more in diameter, with yellow or golden background color. Signs of sweetness include pronounced netting on the rind and a few tiny cracks near the stem end. Smell the melon; it should be noticeably strong and sweet.

Cherries – plump, bright-colored sweet or sour cherries. Sweet cherries have a reddish-brown skim and are not overly soft or shriveled.

Honeydew melons – look for heavy melons with waxy white rind. The blossom end should give to pressure.

Asparagus – firm, brittle spears that are bright green almost their entire length, with tightly closed tips.

Beets – firm, smooth skinned, small to medium in size with deep green and fresh looking leaves.

Eggplant – firm, heavy for their size, with taut, glassy, deeply colored skin.

Peppers – bright, glossy, firm and well shaped.

Salad greens – crisp, deeply colored leaves.
Summer squash – yellow squash and zucchini are medium size with firm, smooth, glossy, tender skin.

Tomatoes – smooth, well formed, firm but not hard. Smell the tomatoes.

If you’re just starting to expand your produce intake consider adding one new choice a week and experiment with usage until you are consuming the recommended daily amount.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Whole Wheat, Made with Whole Wheat, Whole Grain and Other Confusing Terms

Current guidelines recommend the intake of 48 grams of whole grain per day but since listing whole grain grams on the label is not required how do you know if you are getting that much or even if you are eating whole grains?

The best way to know if you are eating whole grain breads or pasta is to check the ingredient list. When you look at the ingredient list look for the words whole wheat flour, whole grain flour or whole oats.

If the ingredient list indicates the use of wheat or another type of flour the product is not 100% whole grain. A product that lists whole wheat, or another grain, and also the presence of wheat or another type of flour is classified as a product that is made with whole grains.

For more help knowing how to recognize whole grains and how to use them in your daily menus; check out these resources.

In addition to breads and pasta whole grains like quinoa, barley and spelt can be added to your menus as side dishes or the base for beans, stir fry and other entrees. Start boosting your whole grain intake by adding a new whole grain each week until at least half your grain intake is whole grains.