Eggplant Cooking Tips

Eggplant!I recently got the best gift from a friend — 4 small eggplants from her garden. This is the same friend who brought me several pomegranates a couple years ago. I feel so lucky that I have friends that bring me wonderful fruits and vegetables — what great gifts!

Anyway, back to the eggplant.

I don’t usually buy eggplant, largely because I really don’t know what to do with it. My husband likes eggplant Parmesan, but he usually orders it in restaurants. I’d heard so many rumors and old wives’ tales about how to cook eggplant, and found myself baffled by all the conflicting information. For example, do I need to salt the eggplant? I remember my husband’s aunt always salting her eggplants and then weighing them down with books. On the other hand, according to an archived article from Food and Health Communications, you don’t have to bother with this if the eggplants are very fresh.

So how should I treat my eggplants?

Since salting can help remove the bitterness from an eggplant, I decided to salt mine. If you’d like to salt your eggplants before you cook them, first you need to slice or dice the eggplant into the shape you want to use. Sprinkle everything with about half a teaspoon of salt (not the half cup my husband’s aunt used to use) and then let everything sit in a colander for 30-60 minutes while the eggplant drains. Once that time is up, press out any excess liquid and dry the eggplant with a clean towel. You can also rinse the eggplant to remove extra salt before drying it.

So, there I was with salted eggplant. How did I want to cook it?

Grilled EggplantI dug further into the Food and Health Communications recipe archive and found a few articles about eggplant, along with several healthful recipes. Here are some of my favorites…

With time running short, I decided that I wanted to preserve my eggplants to cook later.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, eggplant can be frozen. As far as I could tell, there is not a research-tested recipe for safely canning eggplant.

So, freezing it was!

To freeze eggplant, fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water and half a cup of lemon juice (the lemon will keep the eggplant from darkening). Bring the mixture to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to heat up, wash, peel, and slice the eggplant into discs that are half an inch thick. Since eggplant does discolor quickly, prepare only what you you can blanch at one time. When you’re ready, place the eggplant slices in the boiling water for 4 minutes. Pluck the slices out of the water with a slotted spoon and drop into an ice bath for another 4 minutes. Then drain and pack up your eggplant. If you want to fry the slices or layer them into eggplant Parmesan or vegetable lasagna, consider placing freezer wrap between the slices before freezing.

RIMG4637RIMG4670RIMG4677RIMG4732

That’s basically what I did, with one little twist. I put the well-drained eggplant slices on a tray and froze them individually. Then I transferred everything to a freezer bag. Hooray! Now I have two quart bags full of sliced eggplant for later this year!

My research also led me to discover a bunch of great eggplant cooking tips. If you ever find yourself with a spare eggplant or two, consider the following…

  • To avoid browning, wait to cut into the eggplant until you absolutely have to — don’t prep that part a few hours in advance!
  • Leave the skin on! This will help color, shape retention, and optimal nutrition. You can find anthocyanins in the purple skin of an eggplant, and since anthocyanins have a positive impact on blood lipids, it would really be a shame to remove the skin.
  • Eggplants do have a tendency to soak up oil during cooking. To keep your dish light and healthful, sauté eggplant in a small amount of very hot oil in a nonstick pan.
  • Want a quick eggplant side? Spray slices with olive oil cooking spray and roast, grill, or broil them.

Anyway, that’s a brief recap of my eggplant adventures. I hope you liked it!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a handout that features the most helpful points from today’s post. Get your copy today!

Eggplant Handout

And for more fun with eggplant, drop by the Nutrition Education Store!

Fruit and Vegetable Activity Set for Kids

I Heart Fruit and Veggies Bookmark

Vegetable Chopping Guide Poster

Happy Health Literacy Month!

Consulting with a DoctorOctober is Health Literacy Month! Today I’d like to offer you some of our best health literacy resources. Here’s a preview of the Health Literacy handout that’s usually reserved for people who get the popular Health Literacy PowerPoint from the Nutrition Education Store.

What is Health Literacy?

Health literacy is “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (source).

There are three main components of health literacy:

  • Obtain
  • Process
  • Understand

Step One: Obtain

To obtain good health information, you need to know the difference between scientific facts and unfounded opinions.

Consider the source. What’s in it for them? For example, a health food store might tell you to purchase something that you don’t really need, while the Tobacco Institute asserted that smoking was safe to consume for many many years.

Choose scientific resources. Scientific studies that are published in peer-reviewed journals are a great place for obtaining good evidence. You don’t have to go through the journals themselves — try consumer-friendly sources like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.

Seek the truth, not a magic bullet. Sometime change is hard, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your while.

Step Two: Process

The more you read and learn, the more you will be able to process information and evaluate what you read. To successfully process health information, you must have the ability, will, and capacity to change.

You can’t always control your condition. You can control your participation and willingness to learn.

Step Three: Understand

Do you understand enough of what you’re learning? Will you be able to make decisions based on your understanding?

Try these steps to build up your understanding…

  • Read as much as you can (remember those credible sources).
  • Ask questions when you visit your healthcare team.
  • Find professionals that you trust.
  • Take notes.
  • Come up with your own action plan.

That’s just the beginning. For a comprehensive look at building health literacy, don’t miss the Health Literacy PowerPoint presentation. It has a detailed guide to each of the 3 steps for improving health literacy, along with a look at the benefits of being well-informed, suggested questions to ask a healthcare provider, a list of the best sources for consumers, and much much more!

And I would never leave you without a handout! Here’s a free PDF that covers the basics of health literacy.

Health Literacy Handout

There are lots of ways to help your clients build health literacy! Check out these fantastic resources from the Nutrition Education Store

MyPlate DVD

Dietary Guidelines Poster Set

DIY Health Plan Game

New Study: Mushrooms and Vitamin D

We know that vitamin D is considered a nutrient of concern by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which means that most people don’t get enough of it. But according to the latest study from the Journal of Dermato-Endocrinology, the situation is more dire than that. In fact, the authors of the study Photobiology of vitamin D in mushrooms and its bioavailability in humans declare that “Vitamin D deficiency is a pandemic.”

Do you know your mushrooms?Since vitamin D deficiency has raised the risk of a variety of chronic diseases and skeletal diseases, getting enough vitamin D should be high on your clients’ to-do lists. Getting enough vitamin D will reduce the risk of disease and boost health, which can make selling this goal to your clients much easier. In fact, Keegan et.al. assert “obtaining vitamin D from sensible sun exposure, foods that naturally contain vitamin D, and from supplementation with vitamin D is imperative to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

So, it’s time to look at the study and determine how mushrooms could play a role in good health.

But, before we begin, we want to draw your attention to the disclaimer we found at the bottom of the article…

“This work was supported by The Mushroom Council and from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Translational Science Institute Grant UL1-TR000157. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript; ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01815437.”

Anyway, now you know who supported this study and to what degree. Let’s move on to the science.

Gotta love mushrooms!According to the study, “Mushrooms exposed to sunlight or UV radiation are an excellent source of dietary vitamin D2 because they contain high concentrations of the vitamin D precursor, provitamin D2.” Furthermore, “ingestion of 2000 IUs of vitamin D2 in mushrooms is as effective as ingesting 2000 IUs of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 in a supplement in raising and maintaining blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D which is a marker for a person’s vitamin D status.”

In other words, mushrooms are as effective as vitamin D supplements when it comes to raising vitamin D to reasonable levels in the body.

But how do mushrooms become vitamin D powerhouses?

The researchers explain, “When exposed to UV radiation, mushrooms become an abundant source of vitamin D2.” That’s how they can be used as vitamin D boosters to help people reduce their risk of disease.

The study concludes, “Therefore ingesting mushrooms containing vitamin D2 can be an effective strategy to enhance the vitamin D status of the consumer. The observation that some mushrooms when exposed to UVB radiation also produce vitamin D3 and vitamin D4 can also provide the consumer with at least two additional vitamin Ds.”

So, the bottom line is that most people don’t get enough vitamin D, but consuming mushrooms exposed to UV radiation could help people improve their vitamin D profiles.

More mushrooms!Want to help your clients eat more mushrooms? Here are the top 5 mushroom recipes from Food and Health Communications!

And, because I love ya, here’s a free handout that features the Chicken with Mushrooms recipe. Share it with your clients and help them get enough vitamin D!

Chicken with Mushrooms

For More Information:

For More Nutrition Education Resources:

Check out the Nutrition Education Store — here are a few recent educator favorites…

Basic Nutrition Handout Set

Exercise Poster

Nutrition Basics PowerPoint

Where Does the Information Come From?

How does Food and Health get the information it offers?

I’ve been asked that question a lot lately, and since I’m so proud of the answer, I want to share it with you. After all, it’s important to get your information from sources that are trustworthy and accurate. How else are you going to have confidence in what you offer your clients?

Dietry Guidelines for Americans

So, let’s start with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The Dietary Guidelines are our gold standard and the base for many of our materials and articles. To make the guidelines, a committee of university professors go through the latest peer-reviewed journals and distill the most important information into a document for the public. These guidelines are updated every five years, and a new update is just around the corner!

MyPlate is also a key player on our stage. Put forward by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), MyPlate is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and offers a guide to what people should eat each day, along with descriptions of the health impact of various foods. MyPlate is key to the health and nutrition policies of many government agencies and public schools.

MyPlate in Schools

Of course, we don’t stop there! We constantly monitor government agencies and associations for news updates and scientific information. Here are the heavy hitters…

Checking in with the American Heart Association

Now let’s talk about our team. After all, what we do with the information is almost as important as where we get it, right?

Our professionally-accredited editors and advisory board members evaluate the data, looking for practical information, updates, and opinions from private and public practices. Then they put everything into plain language that highlights the key points.

 

After that, we arrange everything into aesthetically-pleasing and engaging handouts and blog posts with the help of our artists and web team. Our chef often creates related materials to help make sticking to these health recommendations easier. After all, it’s more fun to eat healthfully when the food also looks delicious and tastes good, right?

But the bottom line is that we stick to peer-reviewed science that you can trust.

Discussing New Findings

In fact, we don’t accept any industry advertising whatsoever. That way, we never feel compelled to protect our sponsors or present any information in a different light that might be less harmful to foods that aren’t good for our health. Since we don’t receive advertising dollars, we don’t have to appease our advertisers. Instead, we can focus on you.

So there you have it. A closer look at our information, how we present it and where we get it. I hope you enjoyed it!

Want to see how we put that information to good use? Here are some of our favorite heath and nutrition educational materials…

Dietary Guidelines for Americans Poster Set

6 Lessons of Heart Health PowerPoint and Handout Set

Premium Diabetes Education Kit

Oh, and as a special bonus, I’ve included a copy of the handout that comes with the Freedom from Chronic Disease poster. Want a PDF version that’s all your own? Get your copy right here!Freedom from Chronic Disease

Video Marketing: Does Your Site Need It?

I’ve recently been exploring the realm of video marketing, and today I’d like to share what I’ve learned. I hope you like it!

Make a Video!In 2011, Google made $37.9 billion dollars from AdWords, which sells ads for Google search results. Its advertising philosophy is based on measurable data. Take this exchange between Google’s founder, Eric Schmidt and Mel Karmazin, president of Viacom and CBS, as an example.

“Our business is highly measurable,” Google’s founder, Eric Schmidt said. “We know that if you spend X dollars on ads, you’ll get Y dollars in revenues per industry, per customer.” Mel Karmazin, President of Viacom and CBS argued back, “You buy a commercial in the Super Bowl, you’re going to pay two and one-half million dollars for the spot,” Karmazin said. “I have no idea if it’s going to work. You pay your money, you take your chances.” Karmazin trained his eyes on his Google hosts, his hands folded on the table, his cuff links gleaming, and protested, only half in jest, “You’re f***ing with the magic!”

This scene comes from the book, Googled, by Ken Auletta. Now how does video marketing stack up, given the data at Google’s disposal?

The answer lies in AdWords.

Advertising RevenueIn 2013, internet ad sales blew past broadcast revenues with a total of $66 billion to broadcasting’s $42 billion. I have jumped on this bandwagon and have been using AdWords myself. It’s not an easy process. To become proficient — having sales be greater than the cost of advertising — took me a year of research and participation in the Perry Marshall Group. I have also spent several thousand dollars on the “Internet Stupid Tax” as Perry likes to call the wasted ad dollars spent in Google AdWords. This usually occurs when keywords are too broad or your landing page is too generic. So I am no newcomer to the process.

Yet I think that AdWords is vital for most business for two reasons. First, it brings in new customers. Second, it makes the customers come to you instead of your competition! So now let’s talk video.

Video is an important puzzle piece to a good landing page on the internet.

Whether you plan to drive traffic via email, organic search, or pay per click, you have to have a good web page that converts visitors to customers. This is called a good capture rate and it is the key to success on the internet.

What Brings People to Your Website?A good capture rate usually requires a good video. When I consulted a business coach, (the marketing director for Johnson and Johnson for over 20 years) he showed me the work he did for his latest client, increasing her business from $300K to $1 million with one video. In this one video, the site addressed all of her potential customers’ worries.

Here are the statistics for this the use of video on the internet. Check out the  power, popularity, and sales statistics!

  • A video in email increases the click rate by 96% (according to an Implix email marketing survey).
  • 90% of online shoppers at Amazon say online videos are useful and help them decide on a purchase.
  • 75% of executives surveyed by Forbes say that they watch a business related video at least once a week. 65% of these visit the retailer’s website after watching the video.
  • According to the Online Publisher’s Association, 80% of people recall watching a video ad on a website in the past month.
  • 64% of people are more likely to buy a product after watching a video.
  • Real estate properties with videos receive 403% more inquiries than properties without videos.
  • Forbes Insight found that 65% of executives say they would rather watch a video than read text.
    • They are reading how-to advice along with videos about a product or service.
    • 50% of these videos are watched on YouTube.
  • According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, one video is worth 1.8 million words.
  • 100 million people use the internet every day. Most watch videos each day.
  • The Forrester Marketing group surveyed businesses and found that when an email had a video, the click rate increased by 200-300%.
  • Videos increase people’s understanding of your product or service by 74%.
  • YouTube is the number two search engine in the world.
  • 1/3 of all online activity is spent watching videos.

So what do you think? Is a video right for your site?

The bottom line is that video is a valuable medium that is sought after by many people each day on the internet. Video can vastly increase sales on a website for a product or service.

Works Cited:

18 Video Marketing Stastistics. Video Brewery. Web. 4 April 2015.

25 Amazing Video Marketing Statistics. Digital Sherpa. Web. 4 April 2015.

Adwords, Wikipedia. Web 4 April 2015.

Auletta, Ken. Googled: The End of the World As We Know It. Print. 10 Oct 2010. Penguin Books.

Online ad revenues blow past broadcast TV thanks to mobile, Forbes, Web 4 April 2015.

PS Market research isn’t the only way I can make your job easier! Check out these amazing educational materials in the Nutrition Education Store.

Portion Control Video

Displays by Design: Eat Fruits and Vegetables to Excel

Healthful Habits in the Supermarket Video

Reward Chart Poster

Energy Drinks: Just the Facts

It seems like we’ll eat or drink anything that will increase our lagging energy levels. Put the phrase “boost your energy” on a food or beverage, and we think, “Hey, I need that!”

Marketed to improve energy, promote weight loss, increase stamina, and boost athletic performance/mental concentration, energy drink sales are expected to reach $52 billion by 2016. Energy drinks are most popular with teens and young adults — 30-50% of them frequently consume energy drinks.

What’s in Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks start off with a combination of sugar or sugar substitutes and caffeine. Then herbal extracts like ginseng, guarana, yohimbine, and ginko biloba are added. There also might be amino acids, taurine, L-carnitine, or B vitamins too.

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits caffeine content in soft drinks, there is no regulation of energy drinks, which are classified as dietary supplements. Many energy drinks contain 70-80 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per 8 ounces, which is three times the amount of caffeine in cola drinks. Since many energy drinks are packaged in containers that hold 12 ounces or more, the amount of caffeine can easily reach 200 mg or greater. 200-300 mg of caffeine per day is considered a safe amount for adults, and the American Academy of Pediatrics states that energy drinks are never appropriate for children and teens.

Manufacturers are not required to list the caffeine content from additives, which means that the actual caffeine content can exceed what is listed on the label – if it’s listed at all.

Plus, with 220-260 calories per 16-oz serving (that’s equal to 13-16 teaspoons of sugar), energy drinks also contain more sugar and calories than carbonated cola beverages. Sweetened beverages are a primary source of sugar in our diet, and they contribute to obesity and dental caries.

Should I Drink Energy Drinks?

I recommend that you skip energy drinks and instead choose beverages that promote health and hydration. Think water, fat-free milk, and 100% fruit juice. For optimum energy, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and participate in regular physical activity.

By Lynn Grieger RDN, CDE, CPT, CWC

References:

  1. The History of Energy Drinks: A Look Back. Wall Street Insanity. Samantha Lile. 5-6-2013. http://wallstreetinsanity.com/the-history-of-energy-drinks-a-look-back/ Accessed 5-21-14.
  2. Caffeine in the Diet. MedLine Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002445.htm Updated 4-20-2013. Accessed 5-21-14.
  3. Proposed Actions for the US Food and Drug Administration to Implement to Minimize Adverse Effects Associated With Energy Drink Consumption. Thorlton J, Colby DA, Devine P. Am J Public Health. 2014 May 15.
  4. Sports & Energy Drinks: Answers for Fitness Professionals. Jerry J. Mayo, Ph.D., R.D. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/sportsdrinksUNM.html
  5. Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Seifert, Schaechter, Hershorin, Lipshultz. Pediatrics. Mar 2011; 127(3): 511–528.
  6. Clinical Report – Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate? Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Pediatrics 2011 Jun;127(6):1182-9.
  7. Energy Drinks. The American Association of Poison Control Centers. http://www.aapcc.org/alerts/energy-drinks/ Accessed 5-21-14

Handout:

Here’s a link to the free handout. Download it anytime!

Energy Drinks

More Resources:

The Nutrition Education Store is always evolving. Check out the latest resources for beverages and health!

Sugar Awareness Handout

Don’t Drink Your Calories: PowerPoint and Handout Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrition Poster

Checking Out Chia

Are you staying on top of the latest developments in food and nutrition? I try to keep up with everything, but it can be hard. After all, the field is constantly evolving. Nevertheless, I do my best to keep an eye on scientific studies while keeping abreast of fads and trends.

So what has caught my eye lately?

Chia seeds.

Chia seeds appear to be the food of the year. Health food websites feature them, news outlets profile them, and even TV personalities are actively pushing them.

I have to confess, the first thing I thought was, are these the same seeds from chia pets? Remember the chia pet that was sold as a gift for “the person who has everything?”

Yes, the chia seed we’re hearing about nutritionally is the same seed that they use to grow green fur on pottery animals. This crop of “hair” is what happens when the chia seed sprouts.

I contacted the folks at a chia pet company, and they were quick to tell me not to eat the seeds or sprouts that come with chia pets. It seems that the food product seeds are grown and tested differently than those that are developed for the chia “pottery that grows” market.

So, what are chia seeds?

Chia seeds are exactly that  — seeds. They look a lot like sesame or flax seeds and they come from the plant Salvia Hispanica, which is in the watercress family. Chia seeds have a long history and were eaten by the Aztecs and Mayans. Now the seeds are grown all around the world and are key crops in Mexico, South America, and Australia.

Personally, I don’t think that the seeds taste like much. Some people think they have a nutty flavor. Chia seeds can be used whole or ground, and the sprouts are edible too. Many people sprinkle chia seeds onto yogurt, ice cream, baked goods, cereal, and fruit. They are also popular in smoothies. Since they like to soak up water, chia seeds tend to swell when added to liquids. You can use this to your advantage by adding them to soups or smoothies as a thickening agent. I’m seeing more and more chia seeds sold in bulk or baked into “healthful” crackers and snacks.

Now let’s take a look at why people would eat chia seeds.

Chia seeds contain quite a lot of nutrients. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one ounce (about 2 tablespoons) provides 10 grams of dietary fiber, 5 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fat. That same ounce has 179 milligrams of calcium and 138 total calories. Chia seeds are also said to be full of omega-3 fatty acids, with high levels of antioxidants, and plenty of vitamins and minerals.

So here’s where we switch from facts to hype.

Some people are claiming that chia seeds can help with weight loss.

It seems that people are always looking for that “magic bullet” — or in this case, “magic seed” — that will help them lose weight easily. The people who claim that chia seeds are all you need for easy weight loss explain that since these seeds hold water and expand to about 10 times their original size, they will help you feel full. If you’re full, perhaps you’ll eat less. That means losing weight.

Yes, there have been some small studies on this subject. But the verdict is still out until more information becomes available. There’s just not enough evidence to support these weight-loss claims yet.

Learning about new foods and trying new things is always fun. However, it’s important to dig a little deeper before jumping on a new nutrition bandwagon. Chia seeds do have some potential for providing some good nutrition, in moderation. However, they’re not the “magic seeds” that some people make them out to be… except maybe if you’re trying to grow hair on your chia pet.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Looking for tried-and-true weight management and nutrition tools? Check out these popular educational materials…

Weight Management Brochure: Portion Control

Online Wellness Program

Healthful Food Poster Set