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16 Ways Millennials are #Winning the Food Game (Part 2 of 4)

December 19, 2012

Hello again and thanks for joining [NL] as we continue our countdown of 16 reasons why Millennials are #winning the nutrition game. Monday we talked about the importance of watching how this generation eats and yesterday we gave the first 4 reasons. Millennials are cost conscious, supplement savvy, convenience controlled and eating for a thrill.

Today we’re dishing out reasons 12 through 9. Bon Appetit!

12. Digital Divas

As I write this, I have a secondary laptop open to check my work calendar; my IPhone just updated the latest version of MyFitnessPal and two friends have G-chatted me to see how my week is going. To some, this may seem like too much going on. But to Millennials, multi-tasking technology is like second nature.

One way in which Millennials are different than other food consumers is using technology/media to influence purchasing decisions. For example, SymphonyIRI (an analytical and consulting group) found millennials are 262% more likely than the average shopper to be influenced by smartphone apps, 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites, and 216% more likely to be influenced by in-store touch screen displays.

Laptop work

One article calls Millennials “the first inherently digital generation.’  Millennials just don’t know a world without the internet or smart phones. ‘Millennials are the first generation raised on the internet and the last to remember life ‘unplugged’”. Because of this, Millennials are looking to social media and technology to keep us informed and on track when it comes to nutrition.

Nutritional Impact: Being plugged in has its advantages. Search for the nearest restaurant in the yellow pages? No, no, no. There is an app for that. And that app will tell you the walking distance, provide reviews, show menu selection, and include nutritional facts, to boot! Once a meal is finished, it’s a matter of seconds and a few finger taps to learn how many calories we’ve consumed and how many more miles we need to walk to burn them off. Millennials are leading the way when it comes to utilizing technology to meet our nutritional and health needs.

11. Expert Evangelists

Technology is one way that Millennials are staying ahead of the curve in health in nutrition, but they take it a step further by seeking out the right advice via technology outlets.

Registered dietitians are known as the nation’s ‘nutrition experts’. According to the American Job Center Network, the projected growth for dietitians between 2010 and 2020 is faster than average at 20-28%, and we are just one group of experts being sought out more than ever by Millennials for our nutrition know-how.

Many of these dietitians and doctors are making names for themselves by providing easily accessible nutrition expertise to the general public via blogs and social media. To do so, they are translating their nutrition know-how into Millennial jargon. A perfect example of this is ‘The Gen Y Nutritionist”, Jenny Westerkamp. Jenny is a registered dietitian and author of the recently published, You Are What You Retweet: 140 Social Media Rules to Eat By.

Westerkamp has a language for food and nutrition that is easily understood by Millennials. Jenny tells Nutrition Lately, “In my book, I explain eating real quality food in terms of a tweet. Yes, you have a certain amount of characters (calories) to stay within, but that is not really how you know whether or not a tweet is any good. The quality of the tweet is determined by the content of the tweet. I suggest eating foods that give a lot of bang for their buck, like superfoods or nutrient dense foods that add little calories, but a lot of nutrients.”

“I wrote this book for Gen Y because I want them to understand that eating right should be as easy and intuitive as learning how to use Facebook. My hope is that Gen Y will have a better understanding of nutrition when put in terms they are familiar and comfortable with.”

Nutritional Impact: Millennials have a ‘take charge’ reputation. They have a language we understand and speak it daily. And with social media and blogs creating a direct connection with some of the nation’s leading health and nutrition experts, Millennials are not going to just sit back and watch the twitter feed. They’ll use the limitless resources at their disposal by ‘following’ the dietitian that best speaks to them on twitter, ‘liking’ their favorite health centers on Facebook and subscribing to their favorite doctor’s YouTube video channel. It sounds easy to get the right info because it IS!

10. Ethical Eaters

So, we now know just how well Millennials are connected with what is going on in the world around them. Twitter feeds us and Facebook keeps us up-to-date with the ‘status’ quo. But, it turns out we’re not just well informed about national issues, Millennials actually care. In fact, one study shows that nearly 63% of Millennials volunteered for a non-profit in 2011. Millennials are also the age group most likely to search for greener products, 78% having done so in the recent past. The same study showed us that, “Millennials prefer purchasing from companies whose mission includes sustainability.”

In helping our world, sustainability ranks high on the importance list. “Millennials believe that the content of their food is increasingly important. For example, is it natural and sustainable?”

Millennials, with their naturally inquisitive nature, want to know where and how food is produced. We have a heightened awareness of the potential environmental and health impacts of agriculture. Simply put, those pesticides are not appealing to us if they’re going to hurt our bodies and our communities. Millennials want fresher products with less harmful environmental impacts.

Nutritional Impact: Question: Why did the Millennial cross the road? Answer: To get to the local farmer’s market! Local food movements are popping up nationwide, many are being led by Millennials. Locavores are eaters who survive off foods provided in their region with limited transportation. More Millennials are supporting their own farmers and buying outside of large agri-business networks. What happens when you live in Connecticut and bite into a tomato that did not come from California, but your own backyard? You consume twice the vitamin C and A, and it was no doubt cheaper. Millennials get that.

9. Gone Global  

One of my fondest food memories is taking a bite of a pastry in Paris for the Patisserie. The memory of that strawberry cream dessert can make my mouth water to this day. I also vividly remember jumping off a bus in Athens, Greece and entering a small shop where I had my first juicy, lamb gyro. Four years later, I learned how to pair Italian wine with the pasta I made from scratch in Florence, Italy. Have I had enough? NO! I want to experience all the cuisine this world has to offer my taste buds and research is showing so do other Millennials.

According to one report, “Millennials are much more drawn to unique eateries that offer interesting or globally inspired foods as compared to the predictable go-to restaurants Baby Boomers gravitate toward.”

one earth one egg fragile world

Global foods no longer seem as ‘exotic’ to Millennials. Today, Chinese, Mexican and Italian are just everyday fare. Now, offer a Millennial plate of regionally-inspired Indian dish with a unique and creative flavor profile and you’ve piqued interest and salivated a mouth. In addition, Millennials hold a high regard to authenticity when it comes to eating. That Peruvian meal will hold a higher value in our minds if we feel that it is real, authentic, and ‘homemade’.

Nutritional Impact:  So how does a global taste preference help on a nutritional scale? One example is the popular fast food restaurant, Taco Bell. Taco Bell, who has often received criticism for offering “Americanized” Latin food, recently added the Cantina Bell Menu to meet this Millennial demand. Result: A fresher, healthier option with more variety.  A Cantina Bowl features ‘real Hass avocados” and ‘premium Latin rice” inspired by Venezuelan raised Chef Lorena Garcia.

Well played, Taco Bell. Well played.

Come back again tomorrow as the countdown continues!

Sources

http://www.meilanhowalker.com/Ho-Walker_FutureNow_Process.pdf

http://www.thenation.com/article/170526/new-prescription-local-food-movement

Elise Truman Bio

16 Ways Millennials are #Winning the Food Game (Part 1 of 4)

December 18, 2012

Welcome back! In yesterday’s post, we defined a Millennial and touched on how the generation is beginning to shape the nutritional habits of our nation…for the better. Today we’re running down the first 4 ways Millennials are #winning the food game.

Let the countdown begin!

16. Thrifty Trivers

We gotta eat to live!  Now, if I can only find some more quarters in the couch cushions. Though Millennials have greater buying power compared to their parents when they were young, according to recent data compiled by the 8095 Insights Group , unemployment in the U.S. for young people still sits over 12%.  Furthermore, our debt averages at almost $30,000. Needless to say, most of us will be passing by that French-imported, aged Boudreaux at the grocery store.

Most market research reports have concluded that Millennials are looking for the best bang for their buck – even when it comes to food. One study showed that Millennials are more price-sensitive than our Baby Boomer predecessors. “Among Millennials earning less than $20,000 per year, price is far and away the most important attribute impacting purchase decisions, with 75% at this income-level citing price as “extremely important.”

change

Nutritional Impact: With the less-than-ideal economic state of the U.S., Millennials are finding new options to meet health needs. For instance, with the cost of chicken and beef expected to rise due to the 2012 drought and declining supply, Millennials are seeking alternate, often healthier, protein sources. Beans, legumes, and tofu are three of the traditionally forgone sources that we’re seeing in more Millennial shopping carts. We are also choosing to cook at home for the sake of saving money, meaning we’re more aware of what ingredients are in our meals.

15. Supplement Savvy

A consumer trend report described Millennials (aka Gen Y) as ‘Amped and Gorgeous: Gen Y is nutraceutical and supplement savvy, having been raised by health-conscious Boomer parents.’ Supplements are intended to enhance the nutrient density of the diet. A simple way to define nutrient density is a ratio of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients) to macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat). We want this ratio high!

Unfortunately, with factors like changes to soil quality and vitamin/mineral loss in transport and cooking, we don’t always get what we need from food alone. Millennials have caught on to the potential benefits of nutritional supplements. “Since 2009, a Gen Y user has increased the different type of supplements they use in a typical day from 1.8 to 2.8.” said Steve French, managing partner of the Pennsylvania-based Natural Marketing Institute.Pills 2

Nutritional Impact: In today’s high-paced world, it is the exception, rather than the rule, that a Millennial would sit down to a home-cooked meal with freshly picked fruits and vegetables. Even for those who can, there is no guarantee they are receiving all the nutrients they need. Therefore, more and more Millennials understand that prevention via supplementation is the best method when it comes to the onset of nutritional deficiencies that lead to degenerative disease.

Plus, Millennials are doing it the right way. “Gen Y is the most likely to have asked their pharmacist for advice on supplements”, Steve continued.

14. YOLO Attitude

Though research has showed that Millennials are increasingly cost conscious, according to 8095, there are certain products that Millennials are willing to pay premium for, and food and dining topped the list at 73%. The same research suggested that millennials are seeking ‘experiences over stuff” in terms of purchasing decisions and another survey found Millennials are spending more across ethnic/exotic food and beverage categories than the general population.

YOLO is an acronym thought to be coined by the Millennial generation, meaning “you only live once”. More and more Millennials are actually eating by this acronym. And I don’t mean consuming 12 chocolate bars in one sitting because, heck, ‘you only live once.” But Millennials are educated, diverse and seeking new opportunities and experiences when it comes to food and dining. Millennials are seeking to try out new flavor territories and culinary adventures. For instance, last Saturday I visited a tapas BYOB to share plates and vino with my friends and tomorrow I’ll likely eat my lunch standing up at a new food truck I’ve been eyeing for quite some time.

Nutritional Impact: Eating is not meant to be monotonous and bland; it’s about the experience! The more we seek a more thrilling dining experience, the less likely we are to over-consume or become bored with our food. Eat with variety, eat with friends, eat with spice, and you’re eating happily.

13. Convenience Controlled

“It’s going to take you how long to cook my salmon? There has to be an app for that!” In today’s time-crunched society, no one has adopted the “need it now” mentality more so than the Millennials.

Millennials are willing to buy foods from many avenues—online, mobile shopping, delivery, and at pretty much the closet store within walking distance. And when we do buy, we’re doing so for convenience. SymphonyIRI says Millennials are 77% more likely than the general population to buy refrigerated lunches, 22% more likely to buy ready-to-eat cereal and 20% more likely to buy yogurt.

According to a recent report, “Convenience is king with Millennials. They expect to get what they want, when and where they want it, and they know they have options for both products and retailers.  The emphasis on convenience represents a dramatic shift from Baby Boomers’ priorities, and it also presents big challenges – and opportunities – for companies in the food industry”.

Nutritional Impact: Because of this demand, mini-meals and smaller bites are beginning to emerge on the market. In the future, we can expect more frequent eating patterns and a reduction in portion sizes. Some analysts predict that restaurants will offer smaller plates to menus and grocery stores will add more pre-portioned snacks. Smaller portions lead to smaller waistlines.

Check back tomorrow as we continue our countdown!

Sources:

http://www.flavor-online.com/pdfs/foodIQ_2012issue2.pdf

http://www.alixpartners.com/en/MediaCenter/PressReleaseArchive/tabid/821/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/258/Rise-of-the-Millennials-and-Aging-of-the-Boomer-Generation-Will-Mean-Trouble-in-Aisle-5-for-Established-Food-Brands-and-Traditional-Grocery-Stores.aspx

Elise Truman Bio

Millennial Eating:16 Ways Millennials are #Winning the Food Game

December 17, 2012

What is a Millennial and why is it important to understand how we eat?  Yes, I said we. I can call myself a Millennial because I was born between the years 1980 and 1995, placing me in the generational category. The Millennial, also known as a Gen Y’er, a Gen We or a Gen Next, has been dubbed one of the fastest growing and most influential generations the United States has seen.

The generational definitions can get confusing, so here is the run-down:

  • GI Generation (or WWII generation): currently ages 85 and older, 1901-1926
  • The Silents: ages 66-84, 1927-1945
  • The Baby Boomers: currently ages 47-65 , 1946-1964
  • Gen X: currently ages 30-46, 1965-1980

The lastest generational category, Millennials, were born after 1980.  With 1.7 billion members the Millennials are now the largest generation, surpassing the baby boomers.

Eating My Own Words

For years, marketing experts and trend watchers have examined the attitudes, beliefs and trends of each generation to define how they work as a whole.  However, the Millennial generation may just be the most fascinating and influential yet.  In a recent PR Daily article, author Michael Sebastian cited the millennial generation as ‘the most analyzed generation ever’.  Adrian Rosado, a Chicago-based entrepreneur and co-founder of TheMillennial.be, describes the Millennial as someone who “takes risks, sees everything as a challenge and embraces the ability to impact anything they can grasp with their hands or mind.”

TheMillennial.be describes Millennials as 18 to 34-somethings who are “confident, savvy and creating a movement to revolutionize change”. Millennials are continually “making a mark with [their] ideals, attitudes and education.” It is no surprise that current market research is showing that it is these characteristics of Millennials that are beginning to greatly shape this nation’s eating habits.

Because of the Millennial influence on consumer demands, we are quickly observing a changing landscape in health and nutrition. In fact, according to a culinary trend marketing report, “Any manufacturer, retailer, or foodservice operator without a laser focus on this generation needs to play catch-up. Fast.”

In late, the media has placed a negative spin on Millennial eating habits, pointing a finger at the generation for increased consumption of energy beverages and eating on-the-go. Very few sources are shedding light on the fact that, in many ways, this generation is guiding the food industry in a positive direction.

Nutrition Lately digs deeper to examine the nutritional impact made when a generation who ‘knows what they want’ (including what foods) begins to influence the eating habits and nutritional status  of a nation. This article is based on expert interviews, market research and, quite frankly, personal understanding. Please stay tuned this week as we count down the 16 ways Millennials are positively changing the landscape of nutrition in the U.S.

Millennials are anything but quiet about what they want and the time to pay attention is now!

Elise Truman Bio

YOU Can Help End Holiday Hunger

November 19, 2012

Dear Family, Friends, and Followers:

I am writing today to ask you to help me make a difference in the lives of the millions of Americans who struggle with hunger.

Did you know that one out of every six Americans struggles with hunger? That is why I’ve created a Virtual Food Drive for Feeding America in order to raise money to help provide meals to families, children, and seniors facing hunger.

For many people in America who are struggling with hunger, the holidays can be challenging. With your help, Feeding America can deliver healthy and nutritious food – along with some much needed hope – to people at risk for hunger this holiday.

I’m hoping you will help me by donating to this campaign to help fight holiday hunger. Every dollar we raise in this Virtual Food Drive will help provide 8 meals to hungry families in America. The goal is to reach $500 before January 1, 2013. If we do reach our goal, it will help feed 4,000 hungry individuals!

Join me in the fight to end holiday hunger. Your support today can make the difference between a holiday meal with loved ones and another day of hunger to families in our community, so please give as generously as you can.

Whatever you can give will be appreciated, and everything helps. Thank you and happy holidays! http://help.feedingamerica.org/goto/holidayhunger

 Thanks again for your support,

 Rob Masterson

Grow a Mo in November – Raise Awareness on Cancers Affecting Men

November 5, 2012

This month take part in celebrating Movember, a time each year in which men begin to grow out moustaches (mo’s for short) in order to raise awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate and others cancers. For 30 days, men and women from all around the world who join the cause, known as Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, campaign to raise funds and awareness globally. Their efforts help raise invaluable funds for prostate, testicular, and others cancers that can help lead to better diagnostic tests and treatments.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Check out the Movember official website at www.movember.com where you can sign up to become a Mo Bro or Mo Sista and learn more about ways to participate in this important movement. Be part of a cause that is already nearly million participants strong and that helped raise over $126 million in the name of men’s health.

_________________________

Rob Masterson on Twitter.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

August 1, 2012

In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), which is celebrated by more than 170 countries worldwide, [NL] is blogging about the numerous health benefits breastfeeding provides. So read on to see why breast milk is also known as “miracle milk” and “liquid gold.”

PROVIDING NUTRITION AND PROTECTION

For the first 3-5 days after birth a mother’s breast milk at the beginning of a feeding is thicker and yellow in color. This first breast milk, called colostrum, is packed with nutrition and antibodies that help protect your baby and aid in its growth. This double dose of health benefits provides the perfect combination of antibodies and nutrients (fat, sugar, protein, water) and is matched by no other liquid.

In fact, it had been shown that babies who are breast fed are at lower risk for numerous health complications including:

  • GI issues such as diarrhea
  • Asthma
  • Skin rashes
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Ear and respiratory infections
  • SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)

IT’S GOOD FOR MOM TOO!

While the baby is on the receiving end of most of the benefits of breastfeeding, there are still some benefits mom can get as well. Beyond bonding with their child and saving money from breastfeeding instead of buying formula, mothers who breastfeed have also been shown to lose pregnancy weight quicker and lower their risk of health complications such as:

  • Breast and ovarian cancer
  • Depression
  • Type 2 diabetes

Clearly, science has shown that breastfeeding is beneficial for mother and baby, both physically and emotionally.

GREAT BREASTFEEDING RESOURCES

For further reading and some other great breastfeeding resources, check out these websites:

Superfoods to the Rescue

June 11, 2012

Imagine a food powerful enough to help you lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, and as an added bonus, give you the energy to get through a busy day. And unlike prescription drugs, there is no worry about side effects or extreme costs.

If this sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. These life-altering superfoods are available in your local supermarket and they can be mixed into many of your favorite dishes. The superfoods listed below have become increasingly available year-round but are at their nutritional peak from April through July. So stock up on these superfoods this summer and you may just see the benefits for yourself.

PEAS

As a kid, you might have heard mom say “eat your peas” while at the dinner table. Mom was right again! These little gems are jam packed with nutrition. Whatever pea you choose, know they are filled with eye-catching vitamin A, immune-supportive vitamin C, energy-supporting B vitamins, and bone-building vitamin K.

Additionally, peas are good sources of fiber and protein, supplying your body with energy while keeping you feeling fuller for longer periods of time.

Peas also supply a significant amount of lutein, an antioxidant that may play an important role in protecting our eyes and eyesight. Lutein works by acting directly as a kind of natural sun block, and also by neutralizing free radicals that can damage the eye.

ONIONS

While onions may bring a pungent aroma to your kitchen, they will also certainly bring delight to your taste buds. This kitchen stable is known for its versatility, as onions can be sliced and diced into everything from soups to omelets.

In addition to their trademark flavor and usefulness in cooking, onions are rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins C and B6. Evidence from human studies suggest that onions may help increase bone density and could be of special benefit to women of menopausal age who are experiencing loss of bone density.

There is some evidence to suggest that women beyond the age of menopause may be able to lower their risk of hip fracture through frequent consumption of onions.

ASPARAGUS

In spring and summer, asparagus can be found in abundance in many grocery stores, restaurant menus, and farmer’s markets. Asparagus is rich in antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C, and is an excellent food source of glutathione, a phytochemical found naturally within the green spears. Glutathione assists in the repair of damaged DNA, is an active protector of our immune function, and is one of the body’s most potent cancer fighters.

Asparagus is high in fiber, low in calories, and has no sodium, cholesterol, or fat. Just 5 stalks of asparagus provide an excellent source of folic acid, a B vitamin that is associated with a decreased risk of neural tube birth defects.

STRAWBERRIES

From breakfast to dinner, the bright red color and sweet juiciness of this superfood can brighten up any dish. Chances are you love strawberries for their great taste-but know you are also getting endless health benefits when eating them. Strawberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, and vitamin C, and are a good source of potassium, folate and fiber.

The plant nutrients found in strawberries, particularly polyphenols, have antioxidant capabilities that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. These two harmful processes have been linked to major health challenges, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, and obesity.

SUPERFOODS: EDIBLE ENERGY

As a busy society, we are constantly looking for the quick fix to health, in the least amount of time. This quick solution to optimal health might be right at our fingertips- and in the main aisle of our grocery stores. When it comes to everyday solutions to keeping your energy up, try adding these to your lunch box or dinner plate. They are guaranteed to help get you through your busiest days and support your health at the same time.

 References
1. Larson Duyff, Roberta. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002. Print.
2. Wetli, Herbert, Rudolf Brenneisen, Ingrid Tschudi, Manuela Langos, Peter Bigler, Thomas Sprang, Stefan Schurch, and Roman Muhlbauer. “A gamma-glutamyl peptide isolated from onion (Allium cepa L.) by bioassay-guided fractionation inhibits resorption activity of osteoclasts.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53.9 (2005): 3408-3414. Print.
3. “Consumer Information.” California Asparagus Commission. California Asparagus Commission, 2009. Web. 6 May 2011. <http://www.calasparagus.com/consumer/nutrition.htm&gt;.
4. “Health and Nutrition.” California Strawberry Commission. California Strawberry Commission. 2011. Web 6 May 2011. http://www.calstrawberry.com/health/guidelines.asp

But what do you DO?

May 16, 2012

Ahh, what a question. When people hear the word ‘dietitian’ they immediately think, “That person is going to tell me what to eat!” Nope. Not even close.

I have found that a good number of people are frightened of dietitians, thinking that we are plotting to take away their favorite foods and beverages. But I am here to dispel that myth! There is much more to dietetics and nutrition that just recommending eating plans or helping with weight loss.

I, as a community nutrition dietitian, work to provide food to those with limited funds, limited access, special medical conditions, etc. Rather than telling people what NOT to eat, I work to get people the nourishment they need so that they have something to eat, on an otherwise very hungry day.

For the past ten months I have been working for WIC (Women, Infants & Children), a supplemental food program that provides not only food to those who qualify, but also nutrition education, referrals to other services (dentists, social workers, drug rehab centers, food banks) and unbeatable support for breastfeeding moms. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children up to age 5 who meet certain income guidelines are the recipients of this great program. By providing nutritious foods and education to at risk populations, we can help to prevent problems later in life; problems that could cause someone to develop this fear of dietitians and their recommendations. Working in a proactive manner can help those immediately in need and promote healthy habits throughout life.

This week, I will begin to explore yet another area of nutrition that dietitians have the opportunity to make a huge impact in. As part of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, I will be working to build partnerships with other local, statewide and national assistance programs. This particular organization works with the Food Assistance Program to provide food bank patrons with education and access to support. My role with this organization is focused on outreach and advocacy for those in need, a role that is not often recognized as dietetic work. But as mentioned above, dietetics is much more than just dictating a diet.

When I am faced with the common skeptic, who believes dietitians are only around to bark orders, I take the opportunity to open their minds to the vast areas of work that dietitians contribute to. Community nutrition is about education. It’s about providing support to those in need. And most importantly to me, it’s about being able to tell people yes.

If you’d like more information about WIC, or other nutrition assistance programs, visit these sites:

WIC: http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/

Nutrition Assistance Programs: http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns/

Feeding America: https://feedingamerica.org/

No Kid Hungry: http://nokidhungry.org/

Spring Into Food Safety

May 2, 2012

As I write this post I have my feet kicked up, a light 75 degree breeze is blowing my hair and, believe it or not, there is a palm tree within arms length. No, it’s not quite summer yet but this Florida vacation is a welcome change from the 40 degree chills of a Chicago April. One thing this weather reminds me of is that summer is right around the corner. And with the summer comes fun outdoor gatherings and cookouts. In fact, last night I grilled out with my extended family on the patio; chargrilled hamburgers…cooked to medium well.

As delicious as the burgers were, the temperature struck up a conversation around the dinner table. How worried should we be about the threat of foodborne illnesses like mad cow disease? Lately, food borne illness occurrences and warnings have been sweeping the news, especially after the recent CBS report of a positive mad cow disease test on a dairy cow in California. All this talk reminds us of one thing; it’s that time of year again for a heightened consciousness of food safety.

Don’t feel armed with all the right food safety knowledge to protect yourself, your friends and family? Nutrition Lately has compiled a few of the most important food safety myths, common mishaps and tips from storage to preparation to keep you safe this spring and summer.

“THIS GROUND BEEF IS FROZEN SO IT’S OKAY TO THAW IT ON THE COUNTER?”

No way. Room temperature allows bacteria to grow at an alarming rate, even when being thawed from frozen. There are several acceptable ways to safely thaw all foods:

  • Cook without thawing if you do not have enough time and the cooking time will just need too be extended approximately 50% longer.
  • You can thaw using the microwave by following the owner’s manual instructions.
  • If you chose to thaw in water, put the frozen package in a watertight bag and submerge in the cold water, changing water every half hour.
  • Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method and should typically be ready to use the next day.

“THE HAMBURGERS HAVE BEEN COOKED TO DONE SO NOW WE DO NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT BACTERIA?”

Unfortunately, the alternative is true. After cooking bacterial growth can actually increase because there is a drop in temperature that allows bacteria to flourish. Follow these tips to keep food out of the ‘danger zone’ (danger zone – between 41-140 degrees F).

  • Check the temperature – Place a food thermometer in the thickest part of the food and compare to a minimum temperatures chart.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold – Keep hot foods above the safe temperature of 140 degrees or above using a heat source like a warming tray or slow cooker. Be sure to keep cold foods below 41 degrees as well by refrigerating or using ice.

“THIS HAMBURGER DOESN’T STINK SO IT’S SAFE TO EAT…RIGHT?”           

Wrong. There are several types of bacteria that can cause food poisoning and most do not affect the taste, smell or look of our foods.

Following some simple limits for home-refrigerated foods will help keep them safe to eat. Here are a few guidelines for cookout favorites to keep in mind:

  • 1-2 days – Hamburger or other ground meats and fresh poultry.
  • 3-4 days – Leftovers of cooked meat or poultry.
  • 3-5 days – Egg, chicken, tuna and macaroni salads, opened package of deli sliced luncheon meats, and fresh beef, veal, lamb and pork.
  • 1 week – Opened package of hot dogs and bacon.
  • 2 weeks – Unopened packages of luncheon meat and hot dogs.

Storage time increase when stored in the freezer. You can visit the foodsafety.gov storage time chart for more details.

For more safety guidelines for proper food storage, handling, and preparation, please visit cdc.gov/foodsafety.

5 Holiday Food Safety Tips

December 19, 2011

The holiday season is a special time often accompanied by an array of tasty treats like cakes, cookies, and pies. But if not prepared correctly, sometimes those delicious foods can harbor harmful bacteria and spoil your holiday feast, potentially leading to foodborne illness. This holiday season avoid becoming one of the 76 million Americans that fall victim to foodborne illness each year and be prepared by following these 5 easy tips to food safety:

1. KEEP HOT FOODS HOT AND COLD FOODS COLD

Sounds simple enough, right? But what exactly qualifies as a safe temperature for cold foods and hot foods? The answer: follow the 40/140 rule. Keep cold foods below 40° Fahrenheit and hot foods above 140° Fahrenheit and you’ll cut down the chance for harmful bacteria to grow significantly.  In order to ensure this food safety range use a thermometer as well as other necessities (coolers, ice, thermal containers, etc.) to keep hot and cold foods at their proper temperatures, especially if you’re traveling long distance with food.

2. WASH YOUR HANDS…THOROUGHLY

Another easy way to cut down on the chance of contaminating your food with harmful bacteria! But don’t just settle with a quick rinse with some luke warm water. Use soap, warm water, and be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Try singing the ABCs in your head while your wash as a good measuring stick towards reaching the 20 second mark.

3. DON’T LET THE LEFTOVERS LINGER

It’s easy to forget about the leftovers shortly after eating a large holiday meal, especially when hunger is no longer a concern and post-meal festivities occupy your thoughts. But this is often the time where bacteria gets its best opportunity to spoil the night (and your food). That’s because within a few hours many foods can fall within 40-140 degrees, a danger zone in which most bacteria thrive. Unfortunately, a few hours after a meal is also typically the time when people tend to pick at food for second helpings and that could lead to trouble so be sure and put the leftovers in the fridge 1-2 hours after serving to keep harmful bacteria at bay.

4. KEEP CONTACT SURFACES CLEAN

Countertops, cutting boards, plates, bowls, utensils and other containers should always be kept clean when preparing food items. In the case of raw food items, keep them as well as the containers they’re in separate from cooked or ready-to-serve items to avoid cross-contamination.

5. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT

If a certain food item looks, smells, or tastes suspicious don’t take any chances – just toss it. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

WANT MORE FOOD SAFETY INFORMATION?

For more great food safety information and tips, visit these other great sites specifically aimed at fighting foodborne illness:

http://www.homefoodsafety.org/

http://www.foodsafety.gov/

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