Food & Fitness After 50: Clearing the Confusion on Probiotic Supplements

intestinal-gut-bacteria-balancing-microbiomeA friend asked a simple question, “should I take a probiotic supplement?” I wish there was a simple “yes” or “no” answer, as I’m sure that is what she wanted. But, as with many questions in nutrition, the answer is it depends. It depends on:

  • What is the reason for taking a probiotic supplement?
  • Is there a specific health problem that you are trying to alleviate by taking a probiotic supplement?
  • What dietary sources of probiotics are you consuming? And, is your diet rich in not only probiotics, but prebiotics and dietary fiber? Diets high in fat, sugar, and excess alcohol do not promote the good bacteria in our guts, while a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, pro-and prebiotics contribute to a healthy balance of bacteria in our guts. (For more information on dietary sources of pre-and probiotics, click here and here.)

I had the chance to ask Dr. Anthony Thomas, Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas* to help us  navigate the landscape on probiotic supplements. First, let’s understand that probiotics won’t completely alter your gut microbiome because “probiotics do not sustainably colonize the adult gut, but should be thought of as temporary, transient residents that interact with the body and its microbial ecosystem to influence function and health,” according to Dr. Thomas.

Let’s start with the definition of probiotics:

  • “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (WHO/FAO definition).

The key words in that sentence, according to Dr. Thomas are live when administered, adequate amounts, and health benefit.

He explained that the probiotic has to be live when you take it. How do you know? “Choose products that include the “Best Used Before Date” date and avoid products that declare potency “at time of manufacture,” as this measurement does not reflect the amount still alive when purchased and consumed. A transparent, quality manufacturer lists the guaranteed minimum number of live cells, measured in CFUs, per serving when stored as recommended and used prior to the “best used before date.” Dr. Thomas goes on to explain that while probiotics don’t really expire, but the number of live cells may not meet label claims if not stored as stated on the label and used beyond that date. The “time at manufacture” almost certainly over represents the quantity of live cells because the normal manufacturing process results in some die-off of live probiotics.

probiotic_identification_graph
Identification chart courtesy of Jarrow Formulas

Adequate amounts mean not only quantity of probiotics in a supplement, but quality. “Probiotics are strain, dose, and condition specific.” Strains should be designated on a supplement label, so you know what you are getting. Dr. Thomas explains, “not all strains perform equally, and more strains are not better, better strains are better.” For example, if looking for a supplement to help with bowel issues, Lactobacillus (genus) plantarum (species) 229v (strain) is clinically proven to reduce bowel discomfort at dosing of 10 to 20 billion live cells daily.” The probiotic identification chart illustrates the difference between genus, species, and strain in a way that is understandable to those of us who might have forgotten what we learned in biology!

And, that leads us to the last part of the definition, health benefits. A probiotic must be studied to know if it conveys a health benefit. If a label simply says something like 40 billion CFU with 16 probiotic strains, it may or may not be clinically relevant. “Don’t be swayed by a large number of colony forming units (CFUs is how probiotics are measured). What you really want is the right strain in the right amounts,” says Dr. Thomas.

There are a lot of resources to help consumers know if a probiotic meets the definition from the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP). It takes some homework to take the guess work out, but if you are going to pay good money for a supplement, isn’t it worth knowing that it has evidence to support it will do what you want it to do?

I think this statement from the ISAPP sums up what we know, “probiotics are not a “cure all” and it is not necessary to take them to be healthy. But they may help you even if you are generally healthy. Probiotics will have different benefits – look for a product with studies that support the benefit you want.”

Dr. Thomas cautions us to be aware of “disingenuous marketing masquerading as education” for some probiotic supplements. A product claiming to be “ancient” might sound impressive, but if the product doesn’t list the strains, 100 billion CFUs per serving is meaningless.

Resources:

To learn more about a specific supplement check out the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Produces Available in the USA to help you understand the evidence supporting a probiotic supplement.

And, here is a link to helpful infographics on probiotics from ISAPP.

*I heard Dr. Thomas speak at a sponsored food and nutrition conference, but I was neither asked nor compensated to write this post.

 

Fit to Eat

“Fit to Eat,” focuses on nutrition concerns of active people and showcases inspiring stories from adults who eat well, move well, and be well. Whether you are in your 50s, 60, 70s, or beyond you will find information to keep you healthy and active.

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, brown sugar, 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 batches 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 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: Finding the Silver Lining for Active Older Adults During the Pandemic

Food & Fitness After 50 is built on the pillars of eating well, moving well, and being well. So, when Tivity Health, the parent company of of SilverSneakers™, invited me to be a member of their scientific advisory board, I enthusiastically agreed. SilverSneakers embraces the same principles that I hold and while most people think of it as an exercise program, they have an equal emphasis on health, wellness, nutrition and connectivity.

iStock-Older couple runningNow with in-person group exercise classes on pause to stop the spread of COVID-19, how has the change affected SilverSneakers members? Researchers at Tivity Health conducted a number of surveys through the SilverSneakers newsletter on social connections, exercise, and nutrition to understand the concerns of newsletter readers. The survey provides a snapshot of an engaged community and their changing health habits. The infographic shown below (Source: Tivity Health) shows the highligts of the survey conducted between March 26-April 16, 2020. Let’s take a look at how sheltering at home is affecting older adult’s activity, nutrition, and social connections and provide tips on how to make the best of a bad situation…sort of the silver lining for SilverSneakers members.

Being Well and the Power of Social Connection

SilverSneakers Pulse Survey

Let’s start with the loss of social connection. Not surprisingly, ranked as the number one disruptor is the inability to visit with family and friends. I’m sure my SilverSneakers friends miss their coffee corner at our local gym as much as they miss the opportunity to exercise at the facility. The survey also found that limited social interaction contributed to feelings of stress and anxiety.

iStock-Older friends enjoying meal smallSocial support is big part of being well. Research from the Harvard Study of Adult Development found that participants derived their greatest happiness and joy in life from relationships. Men who were socially connected to family, friends, and community were healthier and happier, and they lived longer, than those who had less social connection. Tivity Health’s own research backs up that finding. A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Applied Gerontology found that membership in SilverSneakers not only increased physical activity but also improved health through decreased social isolation and loneliness.

The Silver Lining? Learning how to stay in touch using video chats, live streaming, or social media sites, such as Facebook Live. About 75% of survey respondents say that using various technology tools to stay in contact with friends and family members has helped bridge the physical distance. And with more use comes more confidence in using technology. Everything from religious services, to virtual bridge clubs, to reading stories to their grandchildren, older adults are embracing video capabilities and becoming more comfortable and proficient. That proves that you can teach new skills at any age.

Moving Well: Staying Active in Creative Ways

A big part of SilverSneakers is exercise, and with fitness facilities temporarily shuttered, how do older adults stay active? Survey results show that 93% of all members are still engaging is some form of exercise. Spring brings people out of doors and many find that they can still walk or bike, even with social distancing. And they recognize that activity of any kind is also exercise; from gardening to completing home projects keeps people moving.

iStock Older man lifting weights smallWhile walking is a wonderful fitness activity, we still need to balance our exercise plate with strength training and the ABCs (agility, balance, and coordination). Keeping muscles strong is always important but even more so now. Between the ages of 20 and 90, we can lose over 50% of our muscle mass due to sedentary lifestyle and sarcopenia (which means “vanishing flesh.”) For those who get ill and are confined to bed, a loss of 1% of muscle mass per day compounds the situation. The good news is that strength training just 2 days per week for about 30 minutes per session can reverse muscle loss.

older-adults-tai-chi-outside-e1505160556655Agility, balance, and coordination helps older adults stay active, reduces musculoskeletal injuries, and reduces the risk of falling. While we may never be as agile and coordinated in our body movements at 70 as we were at 20, simple exercises can help improve the ABCs. Yoga, Tai Chi, stretching, balancing on one foot, all can help improve balance.

For those who have replaced their exercise routine with only walking during this time, be sure to start slow when you do return to your pre-COVID-19 workout to avoid injury. In the nutrition world when refeeding a malnourished patient, we use the phrase, “make haste slowly,” and that applies to kick-starting your exercise routine.

The Silver Lining? SilverSneakers offers video home workouts with over 200 videos on demand, so no chance for boredom! There is also the SilverSneakers GO fitness app for smart phones, so workouts are portable. And, with Facebook Live exercise classes offered multiple times per week, activity is possible for these times. Don’t have Facebook but would still love to take part in live classes? Tivity Health recently launched SilverSneakers LIVE, where members can enjoy full-length, live classes and workshops directly through the SilverSneakers website. Create or log in to your account to see the class schedule.

Even without videos, much can be done with exercise bands. I have a set of three bands…light, medium, and heavy resistance that I use for bicep curls, triceps extensions, and shoulder exercises. I hang them on a doorknob as a visual reminder to use them every day.

Eating Well: Get Creative

iStock-Older couple making salad smallSurvey results for nutrition habits show a mixed bag. 56% of respondents report eating more home-cooked meals. Generally, cooking results in healthier meals, so that is a good thing. However, about 25% report making less healthy choices and 30% are eating out of boredom. Comfort foods are definitely “in” right now, but comfort food doesn’t have to be unhealthy food. This might be the right time to lighten up an old family favorite and there are plenty of recipe sites online to help you make substitutions, not sacrifices. Keep healthy snacks on hand so when boredom has you heading to the kitchen choose a snack of fresh fruit, yogurt, or a handful of nuts.

refrigerator-22592466The bad news is that about 1 in 5 people worry about having enough food or being able to restock their supplies. With disruptions in the food supply chain and home delivery of groceries hit or miss (or delayed) it can be a good time to do an inventory of everything in your freezer, fridge, and pantry and plan creative meals around what you have on hand. (For more on this strategy, click here and here.)

The Silver Lining? Many home delivery meal systems are offering significant discounts for meal and snack delivery. And while you may think of meal delivery such as Nutrisystem* as “diet” food, the meals are healthful and could be used to supplement what you have on hand. This is also a good time to dig out appliances hiding in a closet…a George Foreman grill, an Air Fryer, or Crockpot can be used for easy to prepare meals without a lot of fuss. Crockpot cooking can be  an especially affordable and easy way to r batch prep meals, so you can cook once and eat two or three times.

These unprecedented times have us moving in new directions, but the survey results clearly showed that older adults are resilient. We are strong and creative in finding new ways to eat well, move well, and be well. We might just find that we like those Zoom happy hours with our friends and exercising online!

*Nutrisystem is part of the Tivity Health portfolio of products.

Thanks to Tivity Health researchers Dr. Justin Barclay and Lisa Jameson, and Janna Lacatell, Executive Director of Social Determinants Solutions for Tivity Health for providing information about the SilverSneakers survey.

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: Life is a Balancing Act

Food & Fitness After 50: Life is a Balancing Act

I completed this interview with Becky Dorner before COVID-19 changed our lives. Her work in long-term care is well known in the nutrition community and she has developed a web page with free information on what we need to know about food safety and the virus. While we hear about the caring nurses, doctors, and health professionals during this pandemic, there are thousands of food service workers who make sure people in places like hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities are well fed. Becky provides training for facilities to ensure they are safe, as are the people they care for.

Becky and family 2Running three businesses, caring for aging parents, parenting three children, doting over one precious grandchild, and volunteering for her professional organization, Becky does it all with grace and good humor.

Becky and I met years ago, sharing a cab on a cold, rainy Chicago day and we bonded over a mutual interest in healthy aging. But, while I came late to my interest in aging, Becky’s love of working with older adults started early. After graduating from the University of Akron in 1981, she did a clinical rotation in a nursing facility and fell in love with the residents. “I never had the opportunity to get to know my grandparents. This experience filled that void and I was able to help improve their health through better nutrition.”

A Novel Career Choice

Becky caught the entrepreneurial spirit when she was 11 years old, selling hand crafted dolls. “It was rewarding to create something that people valued. I realized early on that I wanted to work for myself, and was driven enough to make it happen.” A family history of heart disease led her to study nutrition and fitness.

When she finished school, Becky did two things that were not very common for dietitians in the early 1980s: she started her own nutrition business and focused on wellness. (Click here to visit her website, Becky Dorner & Associates.) “I’m inspired by young professionals who start new ventures – it’s not easy, but there is a lot of support available. When I started, we were non-traditional – and we were on our own. I learned a lot by trial and error, and found others who were willing to network, provide mentoring and support. It was tough, but what a great way to learn!”

Starting Small and Growing a Big Business

Becky and dogAfter starting her business, she discovered consulting in long-term care (LTC) facilities was stable, steady work. Within 6 months she had enough business to hire other dietitians. Thirty-seven years later, she employs 35 people, mostly registered dietitian nutritionists. Part of her business was developing materials and training for her clients. One day, her business coach suggested she sell these to other health professionals and her second business was born, publishing manuals and providing continuing education courses for health professionals. To date she has presented more than 500 programs for local, national, and international professional meetings in 5 countries and all 50 states, hosted more than 140  continuing education webinars, and published more than 300 health care articles, clinical manuals, and continuing education self-study courses. Her free monthly electronic newsletter goes out to over 35,000 health professionals.

Becky embraced Food & Fitness After 50 when it was published by inviting me to do a webinar, and has since developed a continuing education course on the book’s content.

Creating Balance

This leads us back to the title of this post…. balance. Since she has spent almost 40 years taking care of others, how does she take care of herself?

“Daily exercise is my go-to for stress relief and life balance,” she says. Diagnosed with high blood pressure at the age of 42, exercise, especially walking, helps control my blood pressure and provides some quiet time.” As for her diet, she is careful about monitoring sodium and saturated fat, and she embraced pescatarianism about 10 years ago. (Pescatarians eat a plant-based diet that includes fish.)

Becky defines healthy aging as “being able to do the things I want to do, including the work I love, but also making time for exercise, relaxation and fun. To find balance, I’ve cut back on my work travel and put more time in to developing online webinars and courses that I can do from home.”

Becky and familyAs we age, we all face challenges and when I asked Becky about her biggest challenge, she replied “Caring for the needs of elderly parents who have cognitive issues. It can be a long journey, but we try to provide as many moments of happiness as we can; and make sure that our parents get the best possible care.”

Becky’s 3 tips for healthy aging?

  • Create balance in your life and find joy every day.
  • Eat a plant-based diet; make vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and beans the center of your plate.
  • Keep an eye on your numbers. Know your blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood sugar levels and do all you can to keep them in an optimal range.

Balance can be thought of in the physical sense, which is important to healthy aging, but balance in the psychological sense is just as essential.

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.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Tai Chi for Your Knees

Last year I interviewed Chris Cinnamon, owner and head instructor of Chicago Tai Chi™ and an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certified exercise physiologist about the benefits of Tai Chi for older adults.  In the post, Chris answered your questions about Tai Chi for overall health, and we explored his path from Navy flyer to lawyer to Tai Chi expert and healthy aging advocate. To read the post, click here.

Tai Chi book coverToday I want to talk about his new book, Tai Chi for Knee Health, available at Amazon as a softback or E-book by clicking here.

The book is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to performing this low impact exercise for preventing knee problems, treating knee issues, or recovering after a knee injury or surgery. Since knee osteoarthritis affects about 14 million adults it is likely that you, a family member, or friend have some issues with knee pain. Let’s start with a few observations about the book and then ask the author to elaborate.

The book is divided into 4 parts and 18 chapters, loaded with illustrations to make the content relatable.

The first part is devoted to getting to know your knees and establishing the reasons why Tai Chi is beneficial for knee health. This part is replete with illustrations of the knee and the many structures that support your knee…. bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, muscles, and the inner working of the knee itself. I’m sure you’ve all heard of people (or perhaps yourself) who have meniscus tears or ACL repairs. Chris’s clear explanations and accompanying illustrations will help you understand what these structures are, where they are located, and the functions they serve.

The second part focuses on the first three movements of the seven movement Tai Chi for Knee Health exercise system. The basic elements of the movements are discussed, and each step is illustrated, along with practice exercises to make sure you are doing the exercises in a manner that promotes knee health.

Part three presents the next two movements, reinforcing and building upon the lessons in Parts one and two. Part four guides you through the final two movements, then a complete set of movements 1 through 7.

Each chapter ends with a bulleted list of the content wrap up; I found it helpful to read this first and then read the chapter and ending with a review of the wrap up. (I like the bottom-line up-front approach to learning!)

The book includes links to online practice videos where Chris leads you through the exercises, providing helpful cues.  In addition, the book provides a wealth of references for further reading.

What I like most about the book is that is great for beginners, but also a useful tool for seasoned pros to take their practice to the next level.

Question: Can you explain your 3 objectives for writing this book?

I wrote the book for 3 main reasons:

  1. To help more people discover how Tai Chi-based exercises, when properly taught and practiced, can restore knee health, and improve, even eliminate, knee pain.
  2. To guide readers through a gentle exercise program, anchored in solid science, that gives people an alternative, or compliment, to more invasive, and risky, interventions for knee osteoarthritis and other conditions.
  3. To provide a clear, practical, no nonsense guide for knee pain sufferers so they can accomplish the 3 main objectives of the Tai Chi for Knee Health System because until now, these skills have rarely been taught in the west. The skills are to:
    • develop the sensitivity to feel inside your knees
    • develop the skill to precisely align your knees during dynamic movement, so you stop hurting them
    • learn to move in ways that stimulate physiological mechanisms that can restore knee health.

Question: You make a pretty bold claim that Tai Chi can eliminate knee pain. How do you support this claim?

I appreciate your question. That may seem like a bold claim, but when you dig into the science, it’s entirely supportable.

Let me start with my own experience. In my late 40s, after a lifetime of high impact athletics, multiple knee injuries, and surgery, I endured chronic knee pain. It hurt to climb or descend stairs. It hurt to kneel. It hurt to sit at a desk. I took lots of ibuprofen and worried about my ability to stay active.

Then I received a diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) in both knees. Knee OA is typically degenerative, meaning it keeps getting worse. I didn’t like that. About that time, I discovered Tai Chi. I was soon hooked by its graceful, powerful, yet low-impact movements. Soon my knees began to feel better. As I continued to practice Tai Chi, my knees continued to improve. Today, my knees are virtually pain-free. And as the Head Instructor of the leading Tai Chi school in Chicago, I lead an active life.

I’ve guided hundreds of students and clients through my Tai Chi for Knee Health system. They learn the material, practice it, and consistently report a reduction in knee pain. All that is anecdotal, I recognize. But there is solid science to back it up.

Multiple research studies have tested Tai Chi as an intervention for knee OA. All of the studies show significant improvements in pain. Most of the studies show significant improvements in function. All without drugs or surgery. In short, Tai Chi for Knee Health works. (Note, there is a comprehensive list of references in the book.)

Question: How long and how many times a week should Tai Chi be practiced for knee health?

I recommend people practice my Tai Chi for Knee Health exercises 15 – 20 minutes per day for 4-6 days per week. A small investment of time for a big payoff in healthier knees and a more active life.

With one important qualification, however. If that amount of exercise causes discomfort, then the person needs to back off and do a lower volume and duration of exercise. Say 3 days per week for 10 minutes per day. Then gradually build from there.

As I explain in the book, you can’t reduce knee pain by moving in a way that hurts your knees. Especially when dealing with knee OA.

Question: You talk about the 70% rule…please explain that because everyone thinks you must give 100% to anything to make it successful.

The 70% Rule holds that we perform no movement or practice greater than 70% of our maximum.

For people like me, raised in a “No Pain, No Gain” society, that may initially seem bizarre.

But when it comes to healing your knees, the 70% Rule makes total sense. By moving within your 70% range, you reduce tension, allowing chronically tense tissue to relax. Relaxation of tissue improves circulation of fluids, which promotes healing. So, when healing is the goal, the 70% rules applies.

In the same vein, by moving within your 70% range (or less depending on your circumstances), you avoid a range of motion that irritates arthritic tissue and triggers pain. Viewed in this way, the 70% Rule helps you avoid hurting your knees while the gentle movements of Tai Chi for Knee Health promote healing.

Question: If you could explain the book in a tweet of 240 characters, what would you say?

My book Tai Chi for Knee Health will guide you, step-by-step, through a low-impact Tai Chi-based exercise system that will:

  • Transform your knee health
  • Eliminate pain
  • Get you moving again

Beyond the limit of 240 characters, The Tai Chi for Knee Health System provides an ideal exercise program for adults experiencing chronic knee pain from knee osteoarthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, patellofemoral syndrome, and other causes. It can be incorporated into prehab and rehab for knee surgery and knee replacement.

The Tai Chi for Knee Health System combines time-tested Tai Chi principles with cutting edge scientific research to deliver a step-by-step program that anyone can do. Richly illustrated, with access to online videos, Tai Chi for Knee Health delivers an ideal resource to help you take charge of your knee health, eliminate pain, and enjoy moving again.

Question: Would you like to add anything else?

I developed the Tai Chi for Knee Health System to help millions of knee pain sufferers experience the transformation I and hundreds of my students have experienced—from chronic knee pain to virtually pain free knees.

The response to the book has been outstanding. Readers across the US and 8 other countries are enjoying the program, checking in with questions, and reporting their progress.

There are lots of sore knees out there. Tai Chi for Knee Health can help many of them.

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: It’s a Good Time to Pass Along Kitchen Tips and Family Recipes

Keeping our social distance, my neighbor, Amy and I were talking (well, sort of shouting) across our yards and she said she had an idea for this blog. After listening to her ideas, I am posting a Q&A to share her great suggestions for passing along her favorite kitchen hacks and family recipes to the next generation. Thank you, Amy Clark!

fuel-nutritionMost of us value family meals and for good reasons. A recent systematic review confirms that family meals improve fruit and vegetable intake and improve family connectedness, communication, expressiveness, and problem-solving. And, sharing family heritage through cherished family recipes and teaching children some easy kitchen tips and tricks can improve the bond between the generations.

Question: What made you think about sharing recipes with your family at this time?

Self-isolation and family lock-down is a perfect time to teach kids some kitchen basics that they can use for a lifetime and help to instill the love of cooking. I also think that showing our children how to master simple tips can help making cooking more streamlined to save time in the kitchen. This can help them realize that cooking isn’t a daunting task.

Question: What are your top tips to engage younger kids in the kitchen?

For the younger kids, get them to help with some easy tasks. We probably all know that overly ripe bananas can be peeled and frozen and used in banana bread*, muffins, or pancakes, but another use for bananas is this trick that I use. Have kids peel ripe bananas and slice into ½-inch to 1-inch slices and lay them on baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Slide the tray into the freezer for an hour or two and then transfer to a gallon-size freezer bag. I like to stack the layers on top of each other inside the freezer bag by reusing the parchment or wax paper. They don’t take up much freezer space and it prevents food waste of those tasty bananas.

The kids can pull out the slices when they want to make smoothies, put on cereal, or make pancakes. I like to use them for a breakfast bowl.

Amy’s Breakfast Bowl

½ cup uncooked oatmeal

1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1 Tablespoon of shelled, raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Handful of frozen blueberries

4 or 5 sliced frozen bananas

Mix together in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 40 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir and microwave for another 40 to 45 seconds.

LemonAnother kitchen hack that is easy to pass along to kids is how to save time by having lemon zest and juice at the ready. Wash lemons and grate the zest. Show kids how to use a cheese grater (carefully, of course!) by grating the lemons on the side of the grater with the smallest holes. If you have a zester, that works well, too. Wrap the zest/peel from each lemon in a piece of parchment paper and store flat in a sandwich-size freezer bag. Once zested, cut the lemons and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup, removing seeds in the process. Pour the juice into ice cube trays and freeze. (Your kids may have never seen an old-fashioned ice cube tray!)  Once frozen, remove the lemon cubes and store in freezer bags. One of my absolute favorite recipes for lemon zest and juice is a Lemon Dutch Baby, which the kids will love. If you’ve never tried it, search online and you’re bound to find several recipes using lemon juice and zest. Kids can easily help with this recipe. I like making it in a cast iron skillet because it crisps the crust and some of the iron from the skillet gets absorbed into the food, making it a richer source of dietary iron.

Question: You said that this is also a good time to pass down recipes from one generation to another. What treasured recipes do you have that you want to share with your sons?

I get concerned that some family recipes may be lost over time.  All three of my sons enjoy cooking and grilling but would rather come up with something on the fly or go online to look up a recipe. I want to not only share family recipes but teach them how to make them. My favorite recipes are those passed down from my husband’s grandmother, Estelle.  Grandma Estelle was an amazing woman and fabulous cook who lived to be 99 years old. Maybe she got her love of cooking because one of her first jobs was working at a dairy farm testing the milk for safety. My two favorite recipes are her amazing pie crust (for her famous Coconut Cream Pie) and chicken and dumplings. Both comfort foods to be sure, what we could all use a little comfort right now!

Homemade pie crust is easier to make than you might think. It is cheaper than buying a frozen or refrigerated crust and the taste and flakiness is unbeatable. Pie crust is a good recipe to make with your kids and watching them learn to use a rolling pin is priceless! The crust can be used for pies, of course, but also for homemade chicken pot pie. Once made, the dough can be frozen in individual balls until you are ready to thaw and roll out, which saves you time.

Chicken and dumplings
Amy’s version of Grandmother Estelle’s chicken & dumplings

Our family’s favorite is Estelle’s chicken and dumplings. To make the recipe a bit less daunting, I substitute a large rotisserie chicken for a raw broiler chicken. I remember watching her make it when she would visit us in the summer. I’m sure many of her generation cooked and baked the same way and trying to pin down the exact measurements was a challenge. She would say, “just use a little of this and splash of that.” But even though she didn’t measure a single ingredient, it always came out just right.

Even at 50+, I am still discovering unique family recipes that I can pass on. Last summer, when my husband Randy and I were visiting his parents, I saw his dad cutting up the entire rind of a watermelon. When I asked him what he was doing, he shared another family recipe I did not know about. My mother-in-law showed me how to cook the rinds down and create Watermelon Preserves. She learned how make the preserves from watermelon rinds when she was young from her mother-in-law! The preserves have a unique flavor and we really enjoyed it. When I got home, I made a batch and shared a jar with my son and his fiancé. (See photos below.) I told her the story and she was excited for me to teach her how to make them…another mother-in-law inspired recipe! I love how that recipe, which was created to use every part of the watermelon, is now something preserved (pun intended) and is being passed down by to another generation.

Question: What do you think is a good way to pass along the family recipes?

tgn_080918_nfmm_consumer_infographics_-14-outline_002Some of us have a little more time at home right now so it is a good time to clean up your recipe files and pass along your favorites to your kids…. you can create a recipe box, a recipe book, or more likely for this generation, a digital file shared on a flash drive! Along with each recipe, write a little history of the origin of the dish or why you like it. No matter which way you choose to share the family recipes, I think your kids will appreciate them for years to come.

Banana bread

 

*One of Chris’ favorite recipes for banana bread comes courtesy of California Walnuts, Old Soul’s Banana Walnut Bread. After baking and cooling the banana bread, it freezes well. I have a loaf in my freezer right now! Click here for the recipe.

 

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.