Food & Fitness After 50: Can we Sustain Cooking at Home after the Pandemic?

They say that with age comes wisdom. It seems that wisdom extends to the eating habits of those of us over 50. Ninety-five percent of adults over the age of 50 agree that fruits and vegetables have many health benefits and 89% say they enjoy eating them. Older adults are also more likely to recognize the short and long term health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables compared to younger age groups who eat them because they were told they were good for them or someone else prepared them.

A health strategy that dietitians embrace as a way to eat more fruits and veggies is diet1cooking at home and 2020 saw a big spike in home cooking. According to a recent research report, “Home Cooking in America 2020” from The Food Industry Association (FMI) 40% of American adults say they are cooking more since the pandemic. That might be the silver lining for these challenging and uncertain times. Like many of you I like watching “House Hunters” and I always get a kick out the couple whose wish list includes a gourmet kitchen even though neither one of them cooks! And, many love cooking shows yet they rely on take out for their meals. Of course, the resurgence in home cooking is forced upon us by stay at home orders, closure of our favorite restaurants, or feeling unsafe venturing out to eat, but it is getting us in the kitchen.

How can we encourage the cooking trend to continue once the pandemic is over? After reading the “Home Cooking in America 2020” report, several clues are revealed by the research. Here the highlights that apply to the 50+ demographic, and some personal tips to encourage the cooking trends.

iStock-Couple in kitchen 2“Shared cooking supports consistent cooking.” Those who say they cook a lot often have some help in the kitchen. The report suggests that retired adults may have more time and a renewed interest in cooking with their partner or family as a form of togetherness. While women still are the primary shoppers and chefs, now is a great time to get your partner in the kitchen.

Personal Tip:  I encourage my husband to cook by agreeing to be his sous chef; I get the ingredients ready, chop veggies, measure the spices or herbs, set out the pans or pots, and then offer help when needed. Turns out he is an inventive cook and more creative than I am in the kitchen. He also makes a mean weekend breakfast!

Bagels
Making bagels!

Bonus Tip: Now is a great time to pass along family recipes or favorite kitchen hacks to the next generation. Inspired by a neighbor, click here to access the post highlighting her ideas on paying it forward. But it is also a great time for the older generation to learn from the younger. My niece, Samantha, taught me how to make bagels and I’ve been perfecting my technique since her original bagel making lesson. My nephew, Reis, is also handy in the kitchen. On his visit he taught me how to make an easy, crusty French Bread. It was fun to watch him bake and I reaped triple rewards: spending time with my college-aged nephew, learning a new baking technique, and eating delicious bread.

“Cooking well is a path to eating well.” Tastes rules when it comes to choosing foods and cooking can be a path forward to both taste and health. It’s never been easier to find recipes that contain less calories, saturated fat, sodium, or sugar. And cooking is great way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into meals. Many of us are dusting off small kitchen appliances and rediscovering why we bought them in the first place…. from slow cookers (one of my faves) to Instant pots, we’re enjoying new cooking methods.

Personal Tip: I’ve written about my early pandemic purchase of an Air Fryer and I can’t believe it took a world-wide virus for me to fall in love with it. I use it all the time to turn indulgent foods (fried shrimp!) into healthier versions. It is a quick way to roast veggies, too. Cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts cook up crisp and flavorful in an air fryer. Plus, it doesn’t heat up the kitchen and it is easy to clean. I’ve turned several friends on to the virtues of air frying and we swap favorite recipes each time we talk.

Picture1“Sticking to budgets and reducing food waste has never been more important.” Fifty-one percent of consumers expect they will be better in the future about not letting food go to waste. With food costs on the rise and wanting to minimize shopping trips, getting creative with leftovers (or, as my friend calls them, “plan-overs”) means less waste.

Personal Tip: With late summer harvest fruits and veggies appearing at farmer’s markets, roadside stands, community gardens, and your local grocery store, make sure to use it all up to avoid waste and save money. My lake neighbor has an incredible garden and when he comes to his lake home, he brings bags and buckets of tomatoes, peppers, yellow squash, and zucchini. I’ve made salsa with the tomatoes and peppers, grilled squash kabobs, whipped up chopped tomato caprese salad (adding in my home-grown basil), and make easy stir-fries with leftover chicken and veggies.

“Scratch cooking can be fluid.” Many of us have an idealized version of scratch cooking. You don’t have to make your tomato sauce or fresh pasta to enjoy “scratch” home-cooked meals.

Personal Tip: Convenience items offer short cuts that can make cooking easier and less daunting. I can’t live without canned beans…black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas…are versatile, nutritious, and easy. Just open the can, drain and rinse, and they are ready for soups, stews, or salad. For those nights when you don’t want to cook, don’t overlook a frozen lasagna for dinner and add a big green salad and some crusty bread for a quick meal.

tgn_080918_nfmm_consumer_infographics_-9-outline_002Krystal Register, registered dietitian who leads the health and well-being initiatives for FMI, the food industry association, agrees that “now is the perfect time to embrace the many benefits we can all experience from home cooking and shared family meals. Research from the FMI Foundation, along with many other studies, shows that more frequent family meals are associated with better dietary outcomes and family functioning outcomes. Consumers are to be commended for adapting and discovering new skills and perspectives while cooking more at home. We encourage families to stay strong with family meals. While there are plenty of inspirational ideas, we hope that families stay connected by cooking at home and eating meals together, building habits that can lead to healthier eating patterns and improved overall well-being.”

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Beware of Online Advice to Take Vitamin D or Zinc to Prevent COVID-19

Dietary supplements can help fill nutrient gaps or be used to treat deficiencies but lately I’ve seen lots of headlines implying supplements of vitamin D and zinc can make you immune to COVID-19. In a word? NO.

To top it off, many well-meaning people are touting these nutrients on their social media feeds with messages like, “wash your hands and take loads of vitamin D and zinc,” or “stock up on vitamins and minerals, they are natural so you can’t take too much.” Ouch. Hemlock is a natural poison, so clearly you can take too much of a “natural” substance.

vitaminddiscVitamin D

What do these headlines have in common?

  • Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to more severe cases of COVID-19.
  • New study claims vitamin D deficiency may impact coronavirus mortality rates.
  • Could vitamin D deficiency and coronavirus be connected?
  • New study suggests vitamin D is linked to COVID-19 mortality.
  • Coronavirus: How vitamin D could keep you healthy during the pandemic.

I’ve underlined the key words to give you a clue. These headlines are from the same study. The study found a relationship, not a cause and effect, with vitamin D and the virus. When you see the words or phrases like “appears to play a role,” “may be linked,” “may impact,” “suggests,” “related to,” or “associated with,” it tells you about a relationship between two things. It doesn’t tell you that one thing caused another. Did you know there is a strong relationship between the increase in bottled water consumption and rising rates of obesity in the U.S.? Clearly, it doesn’t mean that bottled water is “causing” obesity.

In addition to the well-recognized role in bone health, Vitamin D is important in immunity. It helps modulate the immune system, making immune cells less inflammatory. Various groups, from the Institute of Medicine (IOM is a nonprofit organization and part of The National Academies that works outside the framework of government to provide evidence-based research and recommendations for public health and science policy) recommends that all adults age 51 to 70 years get 600 IU (equal to 15 micrograms or mcg) a day and those over the age of 70 get 800 IU a day (20 mcg). The Endocrine Society suggests adults need 1000 to 1500 IU to ensure adequate blood levels of the vitamin.

It is hard to get enough vitamin D from food and older adults are at risk for insufficiency because skin doesn’t make vitamin D from sunlight as efficiently with aging. Many adults turn to vitamin D supplements to get the needed vitamin D.

And, we started this post with suggestions that the vitamin plays a role in COVID-19. At this point, it is only speculation, but there are at least nine clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, exploring various aspects on the vitamin on the virus. A rapid review paper from University of Oxford in the UK (click here for the paper), published May 1, found that currently is there is no clinical evidence to support prevention or treatment of COVID-19 with vitamin D

The Bottom Line?

  • If you have had your blood levels of vitamin D measured by your doctor and she or he has recommended a supplement, continue to take the dose as recommended.
  • If you have not had a vitamin D blood test, don’t self-diagnose and start taking vitamin D.
  • If you take a multivitamin/mineral supplement you may be getting the recommended amount or slightly higher for vitamin D; multis formulated for “seniors” often contain 1000 IU of vitamin D. Don’t take any more than the Upper Limit of 4000 IU/day unless prescribed by an MD.
  • Best food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish; think salmon, tuna, sardines. We know eating fish is good for our health in many ways, so include a fish meal at least twice a week.

Zinc 

Picture1We have no storage site in the body for zinc, so it is needed in the diet every day. Zinc is better known for its role in inhibiting the common cold virus from sticking and replicating in the nose and throat. It can also stop inflammation that contributes to the symptoms of a cold…runny nose and stuffy head.

There is no research on using zinc for COVID-19.

While there are many zinc preparations in the cold and flu cold aisle of your local drug or grocery store, should you use them? The research results are mixed, of course, they often are, but the latest review from the Cochrane Collaboration (a group that reviews medical topics by reviewing many studies on a particular topic) found that when zinc is taken at the first sign of a cold the length of the illness is reduced by about one day.

When using it for warding off a cold, keep in mind the following:

  • Timing and dose are important, try one zinc lozenge at the first sign of a cold and take it every 4 hours (most have 10 to 15 milligrams of zinc per dose).
  • More isn’t better, in fact, in can make things worse; nausea and vomiting can occur if you take too much and it can leave a metal taste in the mouth.
  • Avoid zinc nasal sprays…the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers that zinc sprays can lead to changes in the sense of smell and sometimes permanent changes.
  • Zinc can interfere with some prescription medications, like antibiotics and blood thinners, so always consider potential drug interactions.

The Bottom Line?

  • Zinc is important for a healthy immune system but there is no evidence at this time that it will protect against COVID-19.
  • Too much zinc, which is easy to get in supplement form, can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • The Upper Limit for zinc is 40 milligrams so keep that in mind if you use zinc lozenges.
  • Aim for zinc-rich foods every day. Good choices are seafood (oysters, lobster, crab), beef, pork, poultry, baked beans, and fortified breakfast cereals.

I asked Connie Diekman, registered dietitian, food and nutrition consultant, and former President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help sum it up:

“With this new virus, much is unknown which makes it more important that we depend on the science related to supplements, rather than opinions posted by a variety of people. The body of evidence related to vitamins and minerals is extensive, while the knowledge behind Covid-19 is evolving. Therefore, as an RD, the best advice I’d give is to focus on a well-balanced eating plan and talk to your MD or RD to determine if you would benefit from supplements – don’t go it alone!”

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Learning New Baking Skills

Bagel 9
Finished product

During my teenage years I loved to bake. I made cake doughnuts (chocolate-frosted were my sibling’s favorite), pies, cakes, and cookies. I rarely bake today, much to my husband’s dismay. One thing I never baked was bread, except for low-protein bread for my dad to help manage his kidney disease. So, during this pandemic when I saw all the amazing breads my friends were baking and posting beautiful photos on Instagram, I wanted to try my hand. For five days I meticulously measured flour and water feeding my homemade sour dough starter. On the fifth day I declared it was ready for the long journey of kneading, resting, shaping, resting, and baking. Smelled good, tasted like a brick.

So, when my niece Samantha came from Madison, Wisconsin to visit her family who were quarantining in  Georgia, she brought her skills as a bagel maker with her….including a whole jar of yeast (a big deal since there is no yeast to be found in our local stores.)

Bagel 1
Mise en place

The only thing missing from her brilliant bagel-making class was the overhead demonstration mirror! She had all the ingredients ready (or mise en place…a French culinary term for “everything in its place”) and had us work in two teams. I asked her why she tried her hand at bagel making and she said she couldn’t find a good bagel in Madison! She has been refining her recipe for the past 3 ½ years and she is sure she will continue to tweak it, but here is her pretty perfect version, with her permission:

Sam’s Bagels

Total Time: About 2 ½ hours

Makes 8 bagels

Dough

1 Tablespoon dry active yeast

4 cups bread flour (bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour)

¾ Tablespoons Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 ½ cups warm water (about 100⁰F)

Water Bath

2 quarts water

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

Instructions

Bagel 3
Blooming yeast

In a small bowl add yeast and brown sugar and warm water. Don’t mix; just set the bowl aside for about 10 minutes until the yeast blooms. It will get bubbly as the yeast blooms.

In a large bowl, mix remaining dry dough ingredients (salt and flour). Once yeast has bloomed, mix with dry ingredients and knead until smooth.

Place in clean bowl lined with olive oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Set in draft-free area (we used the unheated oven) for 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Bagel 5
The kneading process

Without punching down the dough, divide into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls. Place on an oiled baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let set for 30 minutes.

As bagels set, prepare water bath. Mix all ingredients for water bath in a large pot and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 425⁰F.

When the water boils, punch a hole in each bagel using your thumb and shape until smooth. Boil in two batches for 1-2 minutes per side. After removal from water bath, add toppings, if desired.

To add toppings, brush with egg wash (1 whole egg well mixed) and dip bagel tops into a dish of toppings (we used black sesame seeds and cornmeal).

Place on a baking tray and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cool and eat…..or, freeze. Without any preservatives, these bagels should be eaten within a day or two. If not eaten right away, freeze in a gallon freezer bag.

The verdict? Easier to make than sour dough bread. And, the taste was chewy like a real bagel should be. We’ll be making these again (once I can find yeast) and trying different toppings, too. Thanks, Sam!

Bagel 4And, it is also nice to have a helper, although he was more interested in guarding his toy than paying attention to us.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: What Does Disruption in the Food Supply Chain Mean for You?

grocey bagMost of us have changed our grocery shopping and eating habits while stay-at-home orders have taken effect. We’re not eating out as often and cooking at home is taking hold. Even as states reopen for business, we will feel the lasting effects of COVID-19 on our shopping and eating habits. But we all need to eat and some of the headlines are frightening…from meat processing plants shutting down, to essential food service and food industry workers becoming sick or losing their health and livelihood, to potential shortages of our favorite foods in the grocery store.

While there is agreement that our farmers and ranchers can produce enough food for us, the problem lies with the just-in-time distribution system. Normally, we don’t think much about how an ear of corn got from the field to our table or how the pork loin we plan to grill for dinner gets from a pig farmer to our grocery store. But, in times like these, a break in any link in the supply chain causes disruption that affects us all.

codex-supply-chain

The Big Picture

Let’s start with a big picture look from Christi Dixon, Agriculture Engagement & Advocacy Manager for Bayer. Bayer’s Crop Science Division is an agriculture company that supports farmers around the world. Christi breaks down four major points:

  1. There are disruptions in all segments of the industry. “Most of the time our supply chain is a well-oiled machine, but it is delicate and is not quickly adaptable,” says Dixon. The food supply chain is meant to deliver, not just to our retail stores, but to institutions and restaurants. With most of us at home and restaurants closing and food service operations at schools, colleges, office buildings, and other institutions not ordering the amounts of foods they normally would, it is not possible to quickly pivot to move those foods and supplies to retail. “Not many of us can store a side of beef in our freezer or take delivery of a tanker truck of fresh milk,” explains Dixon.
  2. There are disruptions in the labor force. From closing borders to keeping the labor force safe, farmers and ranchers are challenged to get their crops or animals out of the fields and into the food chain. “People who don’t know about farming have a hard time understanding why unemployed restaurant wait staff can’t be hired to pick crops, but it is a specialized skilled job, performed under difficult environmental conditions, and training is needed to get the job done correctly,” Dixon explains. Switching to unskilled labor is a challenge faced by many farmers.
  3. There are disruptions in row crops and fruits and vegetables. In the Midwest, row crops, like corn, cotton, soy, and canola are in the field, but farmers will face hard decisions come harvest time. Dixon explains that our “import/export systems in are in flux and farmers operate in a global marketplace, and when markets usually open to farmers close or disappear, it puts them at a disadvantage.” Foods can linger in ports unable to be shipped to traditional markets.

Fruits and vegetables will face a similar problem. Dixon explains that “90% of our U.S. produce comes from California, and fruits and vegetable distribution will be impacted as states determine what can be transported across state lines.” And, fruits and vegetables are highly perishable so moving them quickly from the field to market is imperative.

  1. Transportation disruptions hurt farmers. Farmers have to pay transportation costs and with profit margins already razor thin, some farmers make hard decisions to mitigate financial loses by plowing under a crop or using raw milk to fertilize their fields than pay for transport. Crops like potatoes are really hurting…. from French fries to baked potatoes, as restaurants aren’t using potatoes in the quantities they used to.

This all sounds pretty grim, but Dixon says farmers and ranchers are resilient and are learning to pivot. “Working with local food banks, connecting farm bureaus to organizations such as Feeding America, selling direct to consumers via social media…. farmers and ranchers are trying to find markets for their products.” And, while the USDA doesn’t have the capacity to store all the fresh produce, milk, and meat, they are moving quickly to purchase some products to deliver to communities in need.

veggies in field“One thing consumers can do is continue to purchase fresh produce….it is safe and healthful and we need not fear consuming fresh produce,” adds Dixon. And, let your retailer know that you want to purchase milk, produce, and fresh meats, “retailers need to have a pull from consumers so those running the grocery stores know that it will be purchased.”

What about beef?

Another consumer concern is “where’s the beef?” Fresh beef was quick to disappear from grocery store shelves early in the pandemic, so I reached out to registered dietitian, Caitlin Mondelli, Director of Food and Health Communications for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, and asked her a few questions. Our discussion expanded to a virtual briefing on all things beef with Colin Woodall, CEO of National Cattleman’s Beef Association and several other experts in the beef industry.

Is there a shortage of beef?

It is important to note that there is not a shortage of cattle supply and there is beef available at retail and food service. However, disruptions to the supply chain may temporarily limit the availability of certain cuts or lead some retail and restaurant chains to limit purchases to ensure the continued availability of beef for all consumers. ”

Meat case consumerThe disruptions to the supply chain result in slow downs and reduced efficiency at packing plants. There are four major U.S. packers, and all are facing logistical challenges as they struggle with COVID-19. CDC and OSHA have provided guidelines to keep workers safe and the guidelines are being used to support the health and safety of the workers while providing beef to consumers at retail and food service institutions. Plants vary on how they monitor compliance with the safety guidelines.

As the slow downs at plants occur with increasing the distance between workers and slowing the production lines, it means that some areas of the country may find certain beef items out of stock while others may not. At the beginning of the pandemic there was a surge in consumer demand and panic buying. Now, consumers may find restrictions on the amount of product they can buy, and with summer grilling coming upon us, favorites like ground beef and certain steaks may be temporarily harder to find in some places.

Consumers can opt for other cuts of beef and there are helpful tips for how to use the various cuts of meat on the website, Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.

Some advocacy groups say that the beef industry is encouraging the USDA to remove food safety precautions to increase the speed at which meat is processed. What is the beef industry response to those claims?

The beef industry is not asking or encouraging the USDA to take down any food safety precautions. USDA inspections are critical to the safety of the product that gets to the consumer.

Should consumers be concerned about the safety of beef or packaging?

There are currently no reports of cattle testing positive for COVID-19. Additionally, the USDA is not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.” (for more on food safety in the time of COVID-19, check out this post by clicking here.)

We’ve seen reports of chicken and pork producers euthanize animals when they can’t be processed. What about cattle?

The industry term is “depopulation,” but that is not an issue for cattle. Ranchers can move cattle into a “holding pattern,” by providing maintenance feed and moving them to pasture. With spring comes more green grass and pasture lands for cattle to graze; poultry and pork producers often don’t have that option.

Consumers often ask me grass-fed beef is healthier or safer to eat than other beef; what is the best response?

Most people don’t realize that cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on pasture. On average, over their lifetime, grain-finished cattle consume less than 11% of their diet as grain and close to 90% of their diet as forage (e.g., grass and hay) and other human-inedible plant leftovers (e.g., dried distiller’s grains). While grass-finished beef tends to be a little leaner (1-2 grams less fat per 3 ounce serving), in general, all varieties of beef are equally nutritious as all are a natural source of more than 10 essential nutrients, like protein, iron, zinc and many B vitamins.

The only significant nutritional differences between the various beef choices relate to the fat content of grain-finished beef versus grass-finished beef. Grass-finished beef tends to be a little leaner, but other variables contribute to leanness, including breed, age, grade and cut. In other words, lean cuts of grain-finished beef are plentiful too. Cuts with the word “round” or “loin” in the name typically meet the USDA definitions of lean. As far as type of fat, beef’s primary fatty acid source, whether grass- or grain-finished, is monounsaturated fat, the heart-healthy fat found in olive oil, followed by saturated fat. Polyunsaturated fats, including conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3, can be influenced by forage cattle graze on, but because of cattle’s unique ruminant digestive system, these types of fatty acids are usually low in beef.

For a good read on understanding disruptions on the food supply, especially the cattle supply chain, check out this article by Temple Grandin, published on May 3 on Forbes.com.

For more information on the food supply chain and industry response to COVID-19, check out these resources.

Click here to learn more on keeping your food and family safe.

Click here to get the most recent updates on beef and worker safety from National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

Click here to learn more about fresh produce safety and fresh food partnerships.

Click here to learn more about the USDA Farms to Families Food Box.

Click here for more on food supply chain disruptions.

Dr. Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Has COVID-19 Changed Your Shopping and Cooking Habits?

1200px-Colourful_shopping_cartsAs we continue to stay close to home and practice social distancing, is COVID-19 having an impact on how we shop and cook? How has it affected you? A new survey from the International Food Information Council, asked about food purchasing, eating behaviors, and perception of food safety in this unique time. For the entire survey, click here.

I want to dig around the data to see what the over-50 adults are saying in response to some survey questions. The data are broken out into age groups of under 45 years, 45-64, and 65 and over, so I’ll focus on the 65 and over. While the 65 and over responses are close to the average for all groups, there are a few differences.

About 50% of survey respondents say they are shopping less in person and that jumps to 55% for those over the age of 65. That makes sense as older adults are at high risk for contracting the virus and having more serious complications if they do get the virus. For those who are concerned about shopping in person, remember that many stores offer special, early morning hours for older adults and that is when the store is likely to be the cleanest. The hardworking grocery store workers restock and thoroughly cleaned the store before it opens. Wear gloves and a mask and take a list to limit browsing but be willing to make substitutions if your preferred item isn’t available.

hand washingWhen it comes to food safety, we all know hand washing is a key preventative behavior yet only 63% of those surveyed say they wash their hands after grocery shopping. The good news is that number jumps to 73% for those of us over the age of 65. In almost all the categories on food safety, older adults are practicing good behaviors; from minimizing touching surfaces to washing fresh produce. With age, comes wisdom!

As for eating habits, 24% of older adults say their eating habits have not changed yet only 6% say they are eating more healthful foods than they usually do. That is a number I’d like to see higher. Eating healthfully can support the immune system so now is a good time to evaluate the quality of the nutrition in the foods you eat.

While many us of are buying more packaged foods (sometimes called “processed” foods), good for the over 65 adults who recognize that these foods are part of a healthy diet. Foods like canned tuna, canned beans, and tomatoes, as well as frozen fruits and veggies, are healthy, staples that can be put to good use for nutritious home cooked meals.

Mix_Nuts-1-minAbout 1 in 5 older adults say they are snacking more than they did before stay at home orders took effect. Many of us turn to food when we are bored or out of our usual routine, but this is an opportunity to fill nutrient gaps in your diet by snacking on healthy foods. Apple slices with peanut butter, a handful of nuts like walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or peanuts, or a stick of string cheese with whole grain crackers are nutrient-rich snacks that are also filling to keep hunger away.

 

For more resources on food safety and healthy eating behaviors, check out these resources.

And, for an interesting commentary on how the pandemic is helping some of us create healthy habits, such as cooking at home and walking, click here.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Answering Your Questions about Food Safety and COVID-19

Just Running Water, No Soap or Detergents on Your Produce

We are also seeing many reports regarding the use of hand soap, detergents and household cleaning wipes being used to sanitize fresh produce. DON’T! These products have not been approved for use on foods. In addition to the CDC and FDA’s clear advice above, Dr. Don Schaffner, Food Science Professor at Rutgers University explained to USA Today: “Those soaps and detergents are designed for washing hands or for washing dishes and they’re not designed for washing food.” The Alliance for Food and Farming, April 1, 2020

Food-Safety-Hygiene

Older adults and those with chronic diseases are in the high-risk category for COVID-19. Considering that 85% of older adults have at least one chronic disease and 60% have at least 2 chronic diseases, that is more reason to protect yourself by practicing good food safety. To be clear, these food safety practices aren’t anything new; we should have been doing them all along, but let’s face it, we get lazy and don’t emphasize prevention. That is changing!

Here are some answers to questions you’ve been asking. I’ve provided links to resources for more information when available.

Question: Should I leave my groceries in the car or garage for 3 days before bringing them in the house?

chc-final-250x327No! There is more danger of pathogens growing in foods that need refrigerating or freezing than from the COVID-19 virus. While the virus can remain on surfaces for several hours to a few days common sense precautions should prevail. Wash your hands after carrying your groceries to the house and use one counter or table as your “dirty” area for unpacking. Put groceries away and rewash hands and then wash and disinfect the counter. There is no harm in washing cans before opening them, but it is probably unnecessary.

Question: What about reusable shopping bags? Are they safe?

Reusable bags should be cleaned between uses. Bacteria from raw fruits and vegetables can get into the bags so they should always be tossed in the laundry and washed with hot, soapy water between uses. (This is not new advice, but probably not something most people do!)

Question: Should I use bleach or dish detergent to wash produce?

In a word, no. There is so much misinformation circulating online, leading people to do dangerous things thinking it will protect them from the virus…gargling with bleach, using disinfectant wipes to wash produce, or scrubbing potatoes with dish detergent are not only wrong, but dangerous! Bleach, soap, and disinfectants are not meant for consumption. They are great for cleaning hands and kitchen surfaces but are not for ingestion.

Wash-Your-Fruits-and-Vegetables-450x900Question: What is the best way to wash produce?

The Alliance for Food and Farming has some good resources on food safety, but the recommendations from all government organizations have been consistent in advising that we should continue to do the following; note the word “continue” because these are things we should be doing all of the time!

  • Wash produce under warm or cold running tap water to help remove any dirt, bacteria or residues that might be on the product. This goes for conventional and organic produce whether from the grocery store, farmer’s market, or CSA.
  • When preparing fresh produce, begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation. (According to one study, 65% of consumer don’t wash their hands before meal preparation…let’s change that sad statistic!)
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with soap and hot water between preparing raw meat, poultry, and seafood and preparing produce that will not be cooked.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Throw away any produce that looks rotten.
  • Remove and discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables, like lettuce and cabbage
  • Even if you do not plan to eat the skin, it is still important to wash produce first so dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce. I always scrub melons, cucumbers, avocado with a produce brush under running water before I slice into them. Dirt on the outside can be transferred to the inside through the knife.
  • According to the FDA: “Many pre-cut, bagged, or packaged produce items are pre-washed and ready-to-eat. If so, it will be stated on the packaging, and you can use the produce without further washing.”

Question: With disinfecting wipes in short supply, what is the best way to clean my counter tops?

An easy and inexpensive solution is mixing 4 teaspoons bleach in 1 quart (4 cups) of water and pour into a spray bottle. After cleaning with soap and water, spray the bleach and water mixture on all surfaces and let sit for about a minute before wiping dry with paper towels or a clean dish cloth. Don’t forget to disinfect the high touch surfaces like faucets, drawer pulls, appliance handles, tables, counters, and sinks. For more tips on disinfecting your kitchen click here.

Question: Are there any supplements that halt the virus?

Unfortunately, no. But that hasn’t stopped unscrupulous people from selling supplements that make unsubstantiated claims. The Food & Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission continue to issue warning letters to companies for selling fraudulent COVID-19 products that claim to prevent or treat the virus. The latest warning letter was to NeuroXPF selling a CBD product with misleading claims. The agency says beware of products claiming to prevent, treat, or cure those infected with the virus. Remember, if it sounds to good too be true, it probably is!

I welcome questions so email me at chrisrosenbloom@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to respond. There are still some people who think all of the hand washing and food safety practices are overkill, but I’m in that high risk over 65 age group and have a chronic disease….so, I am playing it safe!

For more information on food safety in the time of COVID-19, continue to check with these sources:

For the response  to the virus and the safety of your foods from the retail grocery sector, check out information from The Food Industry Association.

For food safety information, check the Partnership for Food Safety Education.

For information on produce safety check out The Alliance for Food and Farming.

For information on food and nutrition and COVID-19, check out this new resource page from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Dr. Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.