Food Safety

42-15298651The last thing you expect after an evening of great food and entertainment is to get food poisoning. Food safety is very important, especially in the fast pace college setting. Getting sick will make it difficult to attend class and even more difficult to complete homework assignments on time.

The Fight Bac campaign was designed to prevent the spread of bacteria through four basic steps: clean, separate, cook and chill. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention posted these basic food safety guidelines in light of holiday cooking. As the holidays approach it is especially important to remember to practice safe food handling.

I’ve also found that FoodSafety.gov is a wonderful resource for questions regarding food safety. You can ask their experts specific questions and even watch videos.

Here are some of their basic guidelines

  • Clean

Wash hands and food-contact surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges, and counter tops.

This doesn’t mean simply running your hands briefly under water. Use both soap and warm water to prevent the growth of any bacteria.

  • Separate

Don’t cross-contaminate–don’t let bacteria spread from one food product to another. This is especially true for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

1111-wash hands

If you enjoy cooking, you possibly have a favorite knife you work with. It sounds silly but it’s true. The temptation to use that knife to prepare all your ingredients is tempting, but should be treated with caution. Wash your utensils when switching from raw foods, to ready to eat foods such as lettuce.

  • Cook

Cook to proper temperatures. Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause food borne illness.

  • Chill

Refrigerate promptly. By refrigerating foods quickly, you can keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerators should be set at 40 F and the freezer at 0 F.  This should be checked occasionally with a thermometer.

November 16, 2009 at 6:17 am 5 comments

Alcohol

111-drinking #1

The social aspect of college plays a huge part in a student’s life. Nothing is better then getting together with your friends to blow off some steam after a hectic week of class. One of the joys of being at college is the knowledge that you are an adult now. You can make your own choices, do whatever you want to do at the pace you want to go. Partying at all hours of the night can present much temptation and become a distractions from that homework you should be doing.

1111-diff glass

Drinking can become a problem as you may find yourself confronted with an unlimited amount of alcohol. Without some self-restraint you may fall victim to the many negative effects of alcohol consumption which have become a major problem among college campuses.

According to statistics found at collegedrinkingprevention.gov the following facts will give you a snapshot of annual high-risk college drinking consequences.

  • -1,700 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 died each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes
  • – More than 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking
  • -About 25% of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall
  • -More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem
  • -2.1 million students between the ages of 18 and 24 drove under the influence of alcohol
  • -About 11% of college student drinkers report that they have damaged property while under the influence of alcohol
  • -31% of college students met criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse and 6% for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence in the past 12 month

A lot of misconception about your ability to handle alcohol can lull you into a false sense of security. These facts regarding alcohol myths come from both collegedrinkingprevention.gov and the United States Department of Labor where many more facts about alcohol impairment can be found. Knowing the facts about the negative effects alcohol has on you could help save your life.

Myth: Alcohol is a stimulant.

  • Fact: Alcohol is a depressant. It acts on the central nervous system like an anesthetic to lower or depress the activity of the brain.

Myth: Drinking isn’t at all dangerous.

  • Fact: Drinking impairs your judgment and increases the likelihood that you’ll do something you’ll later regret. 1 in 3 18 to 24-year-olds- are admitted to emergency rooms for serious injuries while intoxicated. Alcohol is also associated with homicides, suicides and drownings.

Myth: Drinking coffee helps to sobers you up.

  • Fact: Coffee cannot rid your system of alcohol, only time reverses the impairment. It takes about 3 hours to eliminate the alcohol contents of two drinks depending on your weight. Coffee will just make you a nervous, wide-awake drunk.

Myth: You can just drive slower after drinking.

  • Fact: Many people believe that by driving more slowly, they can compensate for being impaired. The truth is, drunk drivers are dangerous at any speed.

Myth: If you roll down the car window it’s okay to drive.

  • Fact: No amount of fresh, chilly air can reverse impairment. You gain nothing by rolling down a window or turning on the air conditioner.

Myth: All you have to do is splash your face with cold water.”

  • Fact: Cold water or even a cold shower will not sober you up or make you a safer driver.

Myth: It’s okay for you to drink to keep up with your boyfriend.

  • Fact: Women process alcohol differently. No matter how much he drinks, if you drink the same amount as your boyfriend, you will become more intoxicated and more impaired. When it comes to alcohol, size and weight matters.

Myth: If you’re bigger you can handle your liquor better than other people.

  • Fact: Size is only one factor in how much you can drink. Metabolism, amount of rest and food intake all play a part in how you handle liquor. Impairment in motor reflexes and judgment can begin with the first drink.

Myth: You’d be better off if you could learn to “hold your liquor.”

  • Fact: If you have to drink increasingly larger amounts of alcohol to get a “buzz” or get “high,” you’re developing tolerance. Tolerance is actually a warning sign that you’re developing more serious problems with alcohol.

Myth: Beer doesn’t have as much alcohol as hard liquor.

  • Fact: A 12-ounce bottle of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of whiskey or a 5-ounce glass of wine. Alcohol is alcohol no matter what form it is in.

November 16, 2009 at 5:43 am 4 comments

Energy Drinks

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A great source for nutrition and medical information is Mayo Clinic. Their on-line nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. answers tons of questions regarding health and nutrition.

“Energy drinks may give you a temporary energy boost. However, this “boost” — which may last as long as a few hours — typically results from the large amount of sugar and caffeine these drinks contain. (Sugar-free versions of many energy drinks still contain large amounts of caffeine.)

111-energy dring #2Although the various sugars used to sweeten energy drinks can briefly increase energy, consuming large quantities of sugar is likely to cause weight gain. Caffeine is a stimulant, which also can temporarily perk you up. But too much caffeine can cause adverse side effects, such as nervousness, irritability, increased blood pressure and insomnia. Caffeine can also make your heart beat faster and trigger abnormal heart rhythms, which is especially dangerous if you have any type of heart disease

If you’re consuming energy drinks because you’re frequently tired or run-down, consider a better — and healthier — way to boost your energy. Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. These strategies not only will increase your energy in the short run, but also will help you maintain your overall physical and mental fitness in the long run.”

~Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D

It’s pretty crazy how much caffeine is in what we drink.  Mayo clinic also displays caffeine content for coffee, teas, sodas and more. Some of it is pretty surprising.


Coffee                                                                        Caffeine (milligrams)

Dunkin’ Donuts, brewed, 16 oz (480 mL)                   143-206
Starbucks Espresso, 1 oz (30 mL)                                   58-75
Starbucks Vanilla Latte, 16 oz (480 mL)                        150
Generic brewed, 8 oz (240 mL)                                      95-200
Generic instant or decaffeinated, 8 oz (240 mL)         2-12

Energy Drinks                             Caffeine (milligrams)

AMP, 8.4 oz (250 mL)                                 74
Enviga, 12 oz (355 mL)                               100
Full Throttle, 16 oz (480 mL)                    144
Monster Energy, 16 oz (480 mL)              160
No Fear, 8 oz (240 mL)                                83
Red Bull, 8.3 oz (250 mL)                            76
Rockstar, 8 oz (240 mL)                              80

Soft Drinks                                       Caffeine (milligrams)

7Up, regular or diet                                              0
Barq’s Root Beer, regular or diet                      23
Coca-Cola Cherry, classic, Zero or diet          35
Diet Coke and Diet Coke With Lime               47
Dr Pepper, regular or diet                              42-44
Mello Yello                                                            53
Mountain Dew Code Red, regular or diet      54
Sprite, regular or diet                                           0
Wild Cherry Pepsi, regular or diet                   38

Other                                                                               Caffeine (milligrams)
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar, 1.55 oz (43 g)                        9
Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bar, 1.45 oz (41 g)        31

While many rely on that extra boost to get us through the day, it’s unhealthy to rely entirely on caffeinated beverages to keep on running. Once that caffeine kick dies off, your energy plummets with it.

November 16, 2009 at 4:58 am 3 comments

The Freshman 15

upset woman on scaleIs it really true that the average college student will gain about 15 pounds in their freshman year? Those just starting college are likely to gain weight, but the number 15 is a bit high. On average, students gain between 3 to 10 pound in their first two years, the bulk of which happens during their first semester at college.

For many students, this is the first time that they are solely responsible for their breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try adding that responsibility to a semester of classes, a job, and a social life. Food gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list and fast foods helps to keep it there. If you’re not thinking about how much and what you actually ate that day it’s easy to fall into a trend of sugary, fatty food consumption.

We don’t just eat in response to physical hunger. Anxiety, stress, homesickness, or depression can trigger a desire to surround ourselves with comfort foods.

If you’re gaining weight, don’t freak out. As the adolescent body grows metabolism will shift. This is normal and not something that should trigger a series of crash dieting. Take a look at your eating habits and try to cut back on that extra soda.

MyPyramid.gov offers some great nutrition guidelines and even offers a meal tracker to help assess your food intake and physical activity. Their latest feature is the Foodpedia which allows you to find nutrition information for hundreds for food items.

111111- mypyramid

One of the newest features to the pyramid we all grew up with is the emphasis on exercise. Now termed “physical fitness,” getting your body moving is essential if you want to burn calories. You don’t have to make it difficult, just make some adjustments to your usual routine.

-Walk to campus
-Take the stairs whenever possible
-Go for a walk when taking a break after studying
-Play a sport with friends on the weekend instead of watching a movie
-Get off the bus or subway one stop early
-Park in a farther parking spot
-Join a sport
-Do some physical activity you enjoy
-When exercising, do it with a partner
– Walk a neighbor’s dog
-Take dancing lessons, or just go to dances frequently

November 14, 2009 at 5:52 am 1 comment

Healthy Snacks

#2 snacksTrail Mix

Never underestimate the power of trail mix. This is your chance to create a grab bag of all your favorite nuts and dried fruits.

I found some wonderful trail mix recipes at Group Recipes and Cooks.com if you’re looking for something new to try.

#4Hummus-280b

Hummus

Ingredients:

4 garlic cloves, minced and then mashed
2 15-oz cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
2-3 tablespoons of tahini
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Pine nuts (toasted) and parsley (chopped) for garnish

Directions:

1- In a food processor, combine the mashed garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 cup water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon, to taste.

2- Spoon into serving dish and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.

Serve with crackers, raw dip vegetables such as carrots or celery, or with pita bread.

You can also cut the pita bread into thin triangles, brush with olive oil and toast for 10 minutes in a 400°F oven to make pita chips with which to serve the hummus.

#3 Pinneapple

Apricot Pineapple Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1 fresh apricot, diced
6 strawberries
1/2 banana
1 1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. skim milk powder
1 tsp. flax seed oil (optional)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in blender until mixed to desired consistency.

Smoothies are one of the easiest snacks to make and work well as a breakfast item. I found a wonderful collection of healthy smoothies at Health Recipes.com and Eating Well. For those wishing to dabble in the art of cooking it’s fun to make up your own smoothie recipe. Try using any combination of fruits and see what happens

November 13, 2009 at 11:05 pm 1 comment

When Eating Out

#4

Eating out every day will take a toll on your wallet.  It’s cheaper and healthier to buy ingredients and make meals at home but this doesn’t mean you should avoid eating out all together.  College is a time of optimal socialization, when you’re becoming acquainted with the world and your fellow classmates.  Food is a way to bring people together and engage in conversation.  Going out to eat is a typical activity when on a date, also a way to celebrate an event or just a way to relax.

The American Heart Association provides many tips for eating out on their website, including tips for specific foods such as Cajun, Chinese, French, Greek, Vegetarian, Indian, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese foods.

Instead of avoiding your favorite restaurants, try substituting certain menu items with healthier choices.  Not only are these suggestions good to use when eating out, incorporate them in your meals at home.

Try:

  • Corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas
  • Grilled shrimp instead of nachos
  • Grilled fish or chicken breast instead of beef, pork or sausage
  • Salsa, cilantro, jalapeno peppers instead of sour cream
  • Taco salad or fajita salad instead of chalupas and tacos
  • Small bagel instead of a Danish
  • Grilled chicken, sliced meats or even a regular 2 oz. hamburger on a bun with lettuce, tomato and onion instead of jumbo cheeseburgers
  • Grilled chicken instead of fried chicken or tacos
  • Chicken fajita pitas instead of fried chicken pieces
  • Baked potato with vegetables or low-fat or fat-free sour cream topping instead of French fries
  • Pretzels or baked potato chips instead of regular  potato chips
  • Juice or low-fat or fat-free milk instead of a milkshake
  • Leaner cuts of meat, such as London broil, filet mignon, round or flank steak, sirloin tip, tenderloin instead of fatty cuts of meat, such as rib eye, porterhouse or T-bone
  • Rice instead of au gratin or scalloped potatoes
  • Green salad with dressing on the side instead of a Caesar or marinated salad
  • Steamed vegetables instead of fried vegetables
  • Angel food cake or sherbet instead of pie and ice cream
  • Broth-based soups with lots of vegetables instead of cream soups
  • Peel-and-eat shrimp instead of buffalo chicken wings
  • Non-fat yogurt, sherbet or fruit ice instead of a hot fudge sundae or ice cream

Not only are the amounts of foods high in fat increasing, portion sizes are increasing as well.  Some tips to help you avoid over eating include:

  • Split the meal  with a friend.  You’ll same on money and on calories
  • Eat until you are no longer hungry.  Don’t wait until you can no longer sit up straight.
  • Don’t feel pressured to eat it all.  You are no longer that little kid who won’t be excused from the dinner table until you’ve finished eating everything on your plate.
  • Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants.
  • Ask the waiter to place half of the meal in a take-home container before serving you.  Out of sight, out of mind.

November 13, 2009 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

Dinner

The stress of cooking dinner isn’t so daunting if you only have to do it a couple times a week. Try designating a dinner day among your roommates or friends. Here are some quick, easy dinner ideas

Pasta

I found these amazing pasta meal ideas at Eating Well that are easy to make. This recipe is my favorite:

Pasta

Peanut Noodles with Shredded Chicken & Vegetables

Ingredients

– 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– 1/4 cup smooth natural or low fat peanut butter
– 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
– 2 teaspoons minced garlic
– 1 1/2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce, or to taste (see Ingredient note)
– 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
– 8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
– 1 12-ounce bag fresh vegetable medley, such as carrots, broccoli, snow peas

Preparation

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for cooking pasta.
2. Meanwhile, place chicken in a skillet or saucepan and add enough water to cover; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size strips.
3. Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, chile-garlic sauce and ginger in a large bowl.
4. Cook pasta in the boiling water until not quite tender, about 1 minute less than specified in the package directions. Add vegetables and cook until the pasta and vegetables are just tender, 1 minute more. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Rinse the pasta and vegetables with cool water to refresh. Stir the reserved cooking liquid into the peanut sauce; add the pasta, vegetables and chicken; toss well to coat. Serve warm or chilled.

Soup

When the cold winter months hit, you’ll want something warm to eat. More soup recipes can be found at cooks.com if you’re looking for something quick and easy.

soups

Vegetable Soup

-2 bottles tomato juice
– 2 pkgs. frozen mixed veggies
– 1 onion
– 2 stalks celery
– Salt & pepper

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until of consistency you desire.

Potato Soup

-1/4 to 1/2 c. chopped celery and leaves
– 1/4 to 1/2 c. chopped green onions, tops, too
– 2 to 3 tbsp. butter
– 4 c. milk
– Scant c. of instant potato flakes

Saute celery and onions in butter and butter. Add 4 cups of milk and heat until just ready to boil. Add scant cup of potato flakes. Stir and let set for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. If desired, garnish with parsley.

Stir Fry

All you really need is a bag of frozen vegetables and a possible side dish of rice or noodles to make a complete stir fry dinner. I got some of my stir fry ideas from delish but you can try any combination of vegetables, meat, and possibly a touch of fruit.

This recipe is great, especially with thanksgiving right around the corner. You’ll have to find something to do with all that leftover turkey.

stir fry

Turkey stir fry

Ingredients
– 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
– 3/4 pound(s) turkey cutlets
– 2 tablespoon(s) soy sauce
– 2 tablespoon(s) (seasoned) rice vinegar
– 1 tablespoon(s) (grated) peeled fresh ginger
– 1 teaspoon(s) sugar
– 1/4 teaspoon(s) (crushed) red pepper
– 2 clove(s) garlic, minced
– 3/4 cup(s) chicken broth
– 1 teaspoon(s) cornstarch
– 4 cup(s) broccoli florets
– 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
– 8 ounce(s) white mushrooms, thinly sliced

Directions

1. Warm 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add turkey and sauté until no longer pink in the middle, about 2 minutes per side. Remove turkey from pan and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sugar, crushed red pepper and garlic. Blend broth and cornstarch in a cup with a fork.

3. In the same skillet, warm remaining 1 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, red pepper and mushrooms; stir-fry 5 minutes. Stir in soy-sauce mixture and stir-fry until vegetables are lightly browned and tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Give broth mixture a quick stir, then add to skillet along with chopped turkey; bring to a boil, stirring. Cook, still stirring, until turkey is heated through, 1 minute.

November 12, 2009 at 3:43 pm 2 comments

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