Rethink Your Drink!

by Katy Bowen, MS, RDN, LD
Director Community Outreach, CHEF

Did you know the average 12 ounce can of soda contains 140 calories? These are considered “empty calories” meaning that they do not provide any nutritional value. Consuming too many empty calories can lead to weight gain and eventually obesity. Since obesity is linked to Diabetes, Heart Disease, and even certain cancers, maintaining a normal weight is extremely important. Finding alternatives to sugary beverages is a great way to improve your health!

Alternatives to soda:

  • Water
  • Low-fat or fat free milk
  • Infused water
    • Add a splash of juice to your water
    • Infuse water with fresh herbs, fruits, and veggies

Check the label!

Starting in 2018, added sugar will be required on all food and drink labels! In the meantime, you can check the ingredients list for the following ingredients to see if sugar has been added to your drink:

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose (Table sugar)
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Syrup

For refreshing, better-for-you drink options, try our Strawberry Lemonade with Chia Seeds and our Cucumber Mint Infusion.

How to Achieve Your Health Goals This New Year

by Celina Paras, MSc, RDN, LD
Nutrition Education Specialist, CHEF, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
and Andi Champion
Program Coordinator, CHEF

Love them or hate them, New Year’s Resolutions always tend to make us reflect on the year we’ve had and the things we’d like to do a little differently in the future. One of the most common resolutions for many people is to get healthier. While some people tend to go after this goal too aggressively, with overly restrictive diets that are impossible to maintain or intense workout regimens, it’s important to remember that the best New Year’s Resolutions are goals that are realistic and attainable. By making small, incremental changes in your daily habits, you are more likely to stick with your goals and to think of them as more of a lifestyle change than a quick fix.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of tips to help your family reach their health goals this new year. These simple steps can help you reset your habits and make positive changes that can last you a lifetime.

  1. Organize and stock a healthy pantry. Stock your pantry with foods like dry whole grains, nuts/nut butters, seeds, canned low-sodium beans, healthy oils, and dried herbs & spices. This way, you can quickly throw a nutritious and delicious meal together.
  2. Go with nature. Choose wholesome, natural foods that are in season, whenever possible. Limit foods with added sugars and avoid highly-processed foods. Choose foods closest to their natural state as these are usually more nutrient dense.
  3. Discover a world of flavor. Develop flavor with ingredients like fresh herbs, spices, vinegars, and citrus fruits. Explore new flavors and turn everyday foods into a culinary adventure with different ingredients from all over the world.
  4. Get the whole family in the kitchen. From washing, to cutting, to setting the table, there’s something for everyone in the family to do! Children of all ages can have fun learning simple cooking skills like washing fruits and vegetables, cracking eggs, and measuring dry ingredients.
  5. Cook more at home. Remember that cooking is like a sport—the more you practice, the better you get at it! Making a delicious and wholesome meal doesn’t have to be complicated. Get confident with a few cooking techniques and use them often.
  6. Dine at the table. Sit at the table and enjoy meals with family or friends. Take time in between bites and really savor your meal.
  7. Get moving! Play more outside, dance more, take an easy stroll around the neighborhood or get the whole family out on a bike ride at one of San Antonio’s beautiful trails.
  8. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Liven up water with natural infusions of fruits, herbs, and veggies. Try  our refreshing cucumber mint recipe (link to recipe).
  9. Get plenty of sleep. Sleeping is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. A good night’s sleep leads to improved quality of life and physical health.
  10. Smile and give gratitude. Remember to appreciate the good and simple things in life!

Looking for more healthy cooking inspiration? Check out a CHEF class! Our schedule can be found here.

Holiday Food Safety 101

by Katy Bowen, MS, RDN, LD
Director Community Outreach, CHEF

Enjoying food with family and friends is one of the highlights of the holiday season. Everyone wants to help, but too many cooks in the kitchen can result in an increased risk of foodborne illness. This is especially true when people who rarely prepare food at other times of the year are suddenly in front of the stove.

By taking precautions, you can prevent most cases of foodborne illness. Review the simple tips below and share them with all the helpers in your kitchen. Then, eat, drink and be merry.

Soap Up

  • Make sure everyone handling food washes their hands before, during, and after food preparation.
  • Keep kitchen surfaces — such as appliances, countertops, cutting board, and utensils — clean with hot, soapy water throughout meal preparation.
  • Use two cutting boards: one for raw meat, poultry, and fish and the other for ready-to-eat foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Use separate spoons and forks to stir, taste, and serve food.

Take Care When Thawing

  • To prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, thaw frozen turkey and other meats in a refrigerator set below 40°F or in the microwave. Never thaw meats on the kitchen counter, in the oven, or under hot water in the sink.
  • When defrosting food in the refrigerator, cover raw meat and place it on the bottom shelf so juices don’t drip onto other foods.
  • After defrosting food in the microwave, cook it immediately afterward.
  • If you are pressed for time, thaw a wrapped frozen turkey (breast-side down) in a sink filled with cold tap water. Be sure to change the water every 30 minutes.

Know When Your Turkey Is Done

  • Use a meat thermometer to make sure meats reach a safe internal temperature. This is the only reliable way to determine the doneness of your food.
  • Cook whole turkeys to 165°F. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer at the innermost part of the thigh. If you’re cooking a stuffed turkey, be sure stuffing reaches 165°F before serving.
  • Cook holiday hams and pork roasts to 145°F.*

* Allow to rest 3 minutes before carving or consuming.

Boil Your Gravy

  • To kill harmful bacteria, bring gravy to a steady boil on the stove before serving.
  • This rule also applies to leftover gravy. Simply microwaving leftover gravy until it is hot is not sufficient to kill harmful bacteria.

Follow the Two-Hour Rule

  • Whether served family-style or as a buffet, festive feasts often last for hours. After more than two hours, bacteria rapidly begin to multiply on perishable food items. For longer gatherings, keep some fresh food in the fridge to bring out at the two-hour mark.

Chill Dishes Right Away

  • It’s a common mistake to let cooked foods cool before they go into the refrigerator. To chill a dish for serving or storage, promptly place it in the refrigerator after cooking. This ensures freshness and safety.
  • Set your refrigerator below 40°F and your freezer below 0°F.
  • Store leftovers in airtight, shallow containers (two inches deep or less).
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking the food. Remove turkey from the bone and store it separately from the stuffing and gravy. You can leave sliced breast meat, legs, and wings whole.

Use It or Lose It

  • Reheat leftovers to 165°F. Bring leftover gravy to a steady boil on the stove before serving it a second time.
  • Use refrigerated cooked turkey within three to four days. Use stuffing and gravy within one to two days.
  • Eat leftover casseroles and cooked vegetables within three to four days.
  • Finish fruit, cream pies, and cheesecake within two to three days. Regardless of how many days have passed: If in doubt, throw it out!

Reviewed December 2012