Archive for September, 2010

The Amount Does Matter!


Most of us do not think of how much we eat. We just put into our mouths what’s on our plates. After all, everyone knows how much food to dish out, right? Well, actually, no. It has become evident that portion sizes has been rising steadily during the last two decades. Restaurant portion sizes in the United States and Europe have increased by about 50% in the last 15 years, just look at our fast food industries.

So how much is too much food? The Food Pyramid is a good starting point.  Here’s what you need to know: a portion is not the same as a serving. A portion is how much you eat. A serving is a specific amount of food. Therefore you need to understand and use serving size when deciding on portion sizes in your daily diet.

For example, if you eat a bowl of noodles and a bowl of rice at lunch and dinner, you would have satisfied your daily requirement of 6 servings of grains and cereals (2 servings each meal). Snacking on any additional starches in the form of flour pastries or potato chips would exceed the daily recommendation.

The same goes for meat and dairy products. A serving of meat or fish is about the size of a cassette tape. Hence one medium piece of tilapia or a medium piece of chicken would be one serving of meat or protein. So would a large egg. As you can imagine, many individuals, eat well above the recommended 2-3 servings of the protein group every day!

With processed foods, things may get a little tricky until you learn to eye-ball what one serving looks like. Many people wrongly assume that one pack of noodles or pasta equals a serving, perhaps because that makes preparation so convenient. But one pack of noodles or pasta could equal one to three servings according to the Food Pyramid and you could be eating more than you bargained for.

Eating according to the portions recommended by the Food Pyramid may seem a lot less than what you first thought. So go ahead, enjoy your food, just watch the portions.

Quick Tips on the Go

  • Read the serving size information on the food label and let it guide the size you are serving.
  • Use a smaller plate or bowl. Filling a smaller dish gives the appearance of a larger portion.
  • Eat more meals at home and bring your lunch to work or school.
  • Eat small snacks that provide nutrition as well as calories, not too many.
  • Share/ Split meals at restaurants or take part of the meal home.
  • Measure foods like cereal into a bowl and see what one portion looks like.
  • Count the cookies in a serving size as shown on the label and eat only that many.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruit. Pair apple or celery with peanut butter or cheese (follow the serving size amount on the peanut butter).

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Let me start by defining cross contamination. Cross-contamination occurs when two or more different surfaces come in contact with each other providing the opportunity for various bacteria to be deposited on each surface which can cause illness when ingested with raw or undercooked food.
Cross-contamination between foods can easily be limited by being proactive during food preparation. The most basic element to reduce germs from spreading is to wash the hands properly with warm soapy water as often as possible. When handling food, this should be done frequently and, especially, after handling raw meat, poultry and fish.

When thawing or storing raw meats, poultry or fish, the item should be placed in a leak proof container in the fridge. This will prevent any raw juices running over and spilling onto fruits and vegetables, and other foods, below.

The order in which food groups are prepared are important. Personally, I prepare the grains and bread first, followed by dairy. Next, the fruits and vegetables. The last being raw meats, poultry and fish. Finish handling one food group before advancing to the next. This particular step really minimizes the potential for cross-contamination.

Fruits and vegetables should always be washed before being eaten or prepared.

Never place raw meat, poultry or fish next to foods that will be consumed raw, such as salads, vegetable sticks, fruit plate or cheese and crackers. A small splash of the raw meat juice onto the salads or fruit can spell disaster for the consumer.

It is critical to maintain the correct temperature inside the fridge. Cross contamination between foods can be dangerous but is easy to avoid. To keep food safe in fridge, the temperature should always be less than 5°C or 41°F. The range between 5°C and 60°C, 41° F and 70° F, is called the “danger zone” – when food can most quickly become contaminated and unsafe to eat.

Temperature can vary for several reasons. Hot air rises, making the top shelf the warmest spot in the fridge – good for fruit, vegetables and less perishable items. Because cold air settles, the bottom shelf is generally the coldest place in the fridge and is ideal for storing meats, fish and poultry. Opening your fridge door allows cold air to escape, raising the temperature in your fridge and increasing the likelihood of bacteria multiplying and forming dangerous toxins.

Make sure to use different cutting boards, one for meat and the other for produce.

Should you find you have thawed too much meat for a given meal, do not place it back in the freezer. Go ahead and cook the meat, then freeze the extra cooked meat to be used in a casserole or other dish on another day.

Wrapping chicken breasts, steaks or chops individually will allow you to remove only the number you need for a given dinner. If you do choose to freeze the whole package, plan on using the whole package as they will have stuck together upon freezing.

Avoid cross contamination of meat in your freezer as well. Organize your freezer by storing the meat in one area so that if there are any bacteria on the outside of a package, you won’t get it in every area of the freezer.

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