Food Flip Flops

Balanced Diet

Food Flip Flops

We live in an age of ever changing information and that applies to dietary recommendations. Lately, there have been some reversals that may influence what we put on our tables, order in restaurants, and find in school lunches. Here are a few of the latest flip flops, some of which come from new guidelines issued by the federal government last year. 

Cholesterol: For decades, we were led to believe that this substance, which the body produces naturally and which everyone needs, is a bad thing. Foods high in cholesterol such as eggs and shellfish, were to be limited, and for those with any kind of heart problem, perhaps avoided completely. Now there's an about-face. The new advice is that cholesterol in the diet needn't be considered a nutrient of concern. Keep in mind that cholesterol in food and cholesterol in your blood are two different things. Your doctor can check to see if your cholesterol levels are healthy. 

Carbohydrates: These energy-producers are found in sugar, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes... things we love to eat. When the government first created the food pyramid in 1992, the largest section at the bottom was devoted to grains or carbohydrates and recommended 6-11 servings per day, possibly more than all the other sections combined. These days, the food pyramid has been transformed into a plate diagram with carbs occupying about one quarter of the plate. Recommendations are to limit carbs and fill up on veggies for good general health and for weight loss. 

Coffee: Once thought to be a vice of sorts, coffee got a bad rap. But the same government committee that took another look at cholesterol is now endorsing caffeine (coffee) as something that's actually good for you. They're saying that 3-5 cups a day may even be associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There's a caveat though; adding cream, milk, and/or sugar can turn a cup of coffee into a cup of calories 

Salt: We're constantly being urged to reduce our salt intake. But now we learn that there's such a thing as reducing it too much. A study done in Denmark found that low levels of salt consumption may be linked with greater risk of death. At the same time, they confirmed that too much salt is also harmful. They said that for most people, there's no reason to change salt intake as most people eat salt in the safest range. But the U.S. policy makers are sticking to their guns with much lower recommendations. 

So do we stay with these new guidelines or wait for the next inevitable change? Maybe the best advice came from your Grandma. Her wisdom was simple: eat everything in moderation and have a treat every now and then. We'll add one more. Do discuss these questions with your doctor. Every person is different and your doctor can help you decide what's healthy for you.

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Cooking at Home - Why Bother?

Family cooking

Cooking at Home – Why Bother? 

It's long past the time when Mom stayed home and cooked up delicious three-course meals for her family every night. That ship has sailed. Today, families are busy juggling work schedules, after-school activities, and many other commitments – and hoping to fit in a little leisure time as well. And there's no doubt about it, cooking takes time. With all the prepared dishes offered at your local supermarket these days – some of which are very tasty – why would you ever bother to cook at home?

Here are a few reasons we can think of:

You choose the ingredients: At home, you can use fresh produce, fresh or frozen meats, and spices or flavorings that you like most. And you can play with recipes to suit everyone's tastes. It's your show!

You know what's in there: Most food labels have a few polysyllabic words you can't pronounce. They may be harmless, or even beneficial, but you're not likely to need them when you cook at home. And when you buy dishes from the deli counter, there's no list of ingredients at all. Mystery is not always good. 

You can cater to health restrictions: Terms like low-fat, low-sodium, or sugar free can be misleading. If you're trying to follow a desired health regimen or obey doctor's orders, there's no better way than home cooking.  

You don't have to worry about shelf-life: Makers of many prepared foods have to add preservatives to ensure that packaged foods don't spoil when they sit on store shelves for a while.  

Save money: If you make it yourself, you can probably get two or three meals for the price of one prepackaged meal.  

Leftovers: Cooking in batches saves time and leaves you with a freezer full of home cooked meals for those days when you're pressed for time.

Family/friends activity: Gathering in the kitchen with people you love is a pastime that never goes out of style. 

We know that you won't be able to cook up a feast every night, and for those days when you have to grab something quickly, the supermarket is a blessing. But when you can take the time, we highly recommend cooking at home. Those are the meals you'll remember best.  


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Salt and Vinegar

Salt and Vinegar are common pantry staples. But if you associate them only with food, you're missing the big picture. 

Salt:  Salt is a miracle of many talents. It not only makes food taste good, it helps to maintain the body's fluid balance, stimulates muscle contraction and prevents cramping, aids digestion and absorption of nutrients, and prevents dehydration. Here are a few ways you can use salt away from the dinner table:

  • Put out a grease fire. If a frying pan flares up during cooking, pour salt directly onto the flames to quench the fire. 
  • Dark stains on bathtub surfaces are a tough problem. Salt + turpentine to the rescue. An open window and rubber gloves are required. Mix equal parts, about one cup each of salt and turpentine. Stir to dissolve as much of the salt as possible. Be warned – it smells awful. Put some of the pasty mixture on a sponge using a plastic spoon and scrub the stains away. A good rinse should leave you with a shiny clean porcelain surface. 
  • Salt plus baking soda unclogs bathroom drains. To clear a hair clog, mix about 1/4 cup each of salt and baking soda and pour it (dry) into the drain. Pour 1/2 cup of white vinegar in and watch it foam. Leave it for 15 minutes while you boil a pot of water and then pour it in. No more clogged drain!
  • Banish mildew stains and odors from towels. Make a paste from salt and lemon juice. Rub the paste on the stain and let it dry – in the sun, if possible. Toss the towels in the washer as usual, and when they come out, they'll smell fresh as new. 

Vinegar: How many ways are there to use vinegar? From salad dressings, to glazes, to sauces, to marinades, to tenderizing meat … well, I don't think we can ever name them all. Even outside the kitchen, vinegar is indispensable. Here are some ideas:

  • Deter ants and cats: Spray or sprinkle vinegar on areas where you don't want ants crawling or cats scratching, and they'll stay away. 
  • Clean hair and stop dandruff: Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water when rinsing your hair to clear away shampoo residue. After shampooing, rinsing with vinegar in warm water controls flaking.  
  • Clean cutting boards: Wiping with full strength vinegar cleans and disinfects.
  • See the world through sparkling lenses: Clean eyeglasses by wiping each lens with a drop of vinegar. 
  • Soothe a sunburn: Spray full strength vinegar on sunburned skin to soothe and moisturize. (For your face, use a cotton ball or cloth.) 

Surf the net to discover dozens more ways to use these amazing products. You'll be fascinated by what they can do and happy about all the money you'll save when you replace expensive cleaners with salt and vinegar.

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