Expiration, Sell-By, Use-Before, and Use-By Dates on Foods: What Do They Mean?

Posted September 7th, 2011 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Food Safety, health, In The News, Wellness, When to throw out food

Expiration, Sell-By, Use-Before, and Use-By Dates on Foods: What Do They Mean?

Often people open up their refrigerators, cupboards, and cabinets only to find foods with questionable integrity. Some people trust their noses. Others look for visible signs of mold or deterioration. Figuring out the difference between the “expiration,” “sell by,” “use before,” and “use by” dates may leave some people scratching their heads.

While it is always better that you are safe rather than sorry, the following guidelines and information should help to take the guesswork out of determining whether or not your food is good to eat.

Expiration date
The expiration date is the last day the food is safe to eat. If you have not consumed it by this date, throw it away. After the expiration date, it may cause someone to become sick if consumed.

Sell by date
This is the date that is printed for the supermarket. If the item has not sold by this date, the store should remove it from the shelf. It still may remain safe for consumption, if eaten after the marked date. Depending on the food, you still can store these items in your home for days to weeks after the sell by date.

Best if used before or by
The best if used before or by date means the food has a guarantee of peak freshness by this date, if it is properly stored. After that date, it will still remain safe to consume for a while, although it will have a lesser quality of taste, flavor, or nutrition.

Managing foods
For an exhaustive list of how to manage foods, visit the following Web sites:

Canned foods
Making sure canned foods are safe is not as easy to determine as more highly perishable foods.

Follow this advice:

  • Many times the expiration date has to do with the actual can and not the food inside of it; many foods will outlast the can, but if the can starts to lose its integrity before the food, the expiration date will reflect this
  • If the can is dented at a double seam on the top or bottom of the can, throw it away immediately
  • If the can has rust on it, throw it away
  • If the can has a severe dent on the side that pulls the top or bottom of the can, throw it out
  • If the can is swollen, do not consume its contents

Dating requirements
The only foods that are mandated by the US Dept of Agriculture to include dating requirements are infant formula and baby food. Many foods do not have any date or indication of freshness to determine whether they are safe to consume. Some foods use a different system called Julian dates, whereby the month is indicated by a number or a letter and the year is represented with only one number, representing the last number of the year it was produced (for example, 2009 is marked as a 9).

While following these guidelines can alleviate some of the confusion about whether a food is safe or not, the best advice probably is “when in doubt, throw it out!”

References

Office of Citizen Services and Communications, US Government Services Administration. Deciphering good expiration dates. Available at:http://blog.usa.gov/roller/govgab/entry/deciphering_food_expiration_dates. Accessed November 17, 2009.

Wood D. Nothing simple about food dating, expiration dates or ‘use by’ dates: most product dates relate to quality rather than safety. Available at: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2009/08/expiration_dates.html. Accessed November 17, 2009.

Info provided by RD411

 

Weekend Warriors Prevent Injury with Preparation

Ever heard the term “Weekend Warriors?” These fun-loving, sports-minded folks work hard then occasionally decide to have some fun by participating in an activity that’s new (or old and dear). The problem is, their body isn’t conditioned through diet and exercise for what’s about to happen, and the result is often an injury … sometimes a bad injury.

Common catalysts for weekend warrior syndrome are spring thaw, reunions, holidays, turning 40, turning 50, New Year’s resolutions and your teen’s friends playing ball in the lot next door. There are abundant opportunities to “jump right in” and although your heart’s in the right place, you could pay a big price later.

I’ve fallen victim to this scenario myself. I work out on a regular basis and eat well, but recently I played a charity softball game, a sport that I used to play in my younger years … and I could not get out of bed on Monday. I also could not use my Blackberry because my hands hurt so bad.

Had I at least been doing some type of similar activity before that game, or stretching the body parts I knew I’d be using, I might have had a fighting chance. Changing from a flat gym floor to uneven earth or rolling trails or sloped beaches can also cause issues. Imagine what the 50th-birthday-but-20-mile-bike-ride might do to an office worker.

If we’re not used to using certain muscles, we make ourselves prime candidates for debilitating or highly irritating injuries. I was thinking about the various ways to keep the body prepared for the occasional odd activity, and came across a great quote on the Internet: “Men over 40 should be fit for their sport rather than using their sport to get fit,” it said. This surely applies to everyone contemplating a sudden, big burst of athleticism.

The easiest way to avoid injury is the one requiring the most discipline: don’t do too much of anything that’s new. Start out in moderation, play part of the game, do 5 miles instead of 20. You could save yourself a stress fracture or a couple of very uncomfortable weeks.

Flexibility and stretching are key, too, so if you know you have a new sport ahead, start working that part of the body, stretching daily, and always stretch after a workout to gain flexibility. A balanced diet and proper weight is always a good idea. Hauling an extra 30 pounds around a make-believe football field is tough.

Here’s another tip: A lack of magnesium can lead to muscle weakness and cramps. Magnesium is lost via sweat, so regular exercisers and even saunagoers need to take in enough magnesium rich foods or supplement magnesium. But after a spontaneous workout, you’d do well to have some on hand.

Weekend warriors can benefit from maintaining a healthy mineral balance. Think of magnesium as your “muscle mineral.” The FDA recommends 310-420 mg daily for most adults.

Here are a few magnesium-rich foods if, like me, you prefer a healthy diet to taking lots of supplements: 3 ounces of halibut, 90 gm; 1 ounce dry roasted almonds, 80 gm; 1 ounce dry roasted cashews, 75 gm; 1/2 cup cooked soybeans, 75 gm; 1/2 cup frozen spinach, 75 gm; 1 ounce mixed dry roasted nuts, 65 gm; 2 biscuits of Shredded Wheat cereal 55 gm; 1 cup instant fortified oatmeal, 55 gm.

I also like to keep resistance bands all around me: tied to doors, in my travel bag, in front of the TV, wrapped around the legs and arms of my chairs. A good 10-minute workout with bands can be great if done right.

So if your college roomie has challenged you to a tennis rematch from days gone by … start working the “pushing” muscles on your chest wall, and get your shoulder primed for action. Do some sideways motion drills, and start taking magnesium. If it’s been a while, you’re going to need it!

Summer Vacation Helps the Body; Make Yours Healthy

Summer is vacation time. As a nutritionist and registered dietitian, I advocate for all the facets of healthy lifestyles, and near the top of the list is substantial time off from the daily grind. Don’t underestimate the importance of a vacation; your body actually needs the break, no matter what your circumstances are.

Daily life hurls all sorts of small stresses at us. The hormones released during short-term stressful situations actually help us to make quick decisions and avoid trouble. But too many of those hormones can actually deteriorate the cardiovascular system.

If you’re already at risk for heart disease, or have some risk factors working against you, the last thing you want to do is stay on the stress train. Most doctors will tell you your body needs a vacation. And by this, they don’t mean hanging out at the mall near the house, with your cell phone. A complete change of scenery and routine is what’s required to help the body rejuvenate and heal.

If you’ve got a Type A person in your world, put this article in front of that person and recommend a true getaway: no office politics, no irritating neighbors, no repairs that need to be made.

Next, don’t set up yourself for added stress when you get home. One week of weight gain can take months to lose, and every time you button tight pants, you’ll feel a twinge of disappointment in yourself.
Make a commitment to having a healthy vacation. Get in the mindset that you’re leaving for health reasons, and you want to feel as good as possible upon your return.

This is not to say you can’t indulge a little bit – an occasional “cheat” day is a good idea even at home. But promising yourself true rest, some form of pleasurable exercise and relatively healthy food can really start an exciting (and beneficial) new phase of your life.

Here are some tips which will help you avoid vacation weight gain. If you’ll have access to a kitchen, take your George Foreman grill and electric skillet and go to the grocery store. You’ll save a fortune, which you can spend on activities and attractions.

In many hotels, you can request a mini fridge and microwave, even if they’re not normally in the room. During a recent Orlando conference, the Ritz-Carlton charged me next to nothing for both. So I had all the health foods and drinks with me that I wanted, and spent far less eating out.

Odds are high you’ll patronize restaurants on vacation. Commit three rules to memory and they will make a big difference in your waistline over the coming years.
1. Never, never, never get regular salad dressing. Request a low-fat dressing.
2. Always, always, always ask for the salad dressing on the side.
3. No no no fried foods; order baked, boiled, broiled or blackened. Fast food is a trap – avoid it if possible, but if not, steer clear of fried foods, cheese and fatty condiments.

If you’re staying in a hotel with free continental breakfast, stay away from the pastries, doughnuts and hash browns. Instead, choose whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat yogurt, fruits, and eggs (a good source of protein). Keep in mind you can still make oatmeal with the in-room coffee maker.

Also plan your vacation to include physical activity. If you’ll be in an urban area, check online for Ys, family parks or a family rec center. We try to plan activities within our vacation that are fun physical components, such as bike riding. Take a hike, play basketball, do a quick workout, and try something new. Even things you’re bad at (badminton, anyone?) create fun family memories while setting a healthy pattern.

Extra Protein Benefits Most; Liquid Collagen my Choice

In my last column, I explained that whey protein is often a problem for lactose-intolerant people who are using a protein supplement. It’s easy to assume that a protein supplement is beneficial for only extreme athletes such as bodybuilders, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Protein has many uses and supplementation is beneficial for a wide variety of users. They include the elderly; those with joint or degenerative diseases, or orthopedic conditions; the overweight; people who do heavy manual labor in their work, sport or hobby; those going through growth phases; people in physical rehab; men and women doing intensive training for a sport or competition; adults who work out on a regular basis; teen athletes who are trying to build muscle and strength; people taking symptomatic treatment for pain relief or inflammation; and anyone with pain resulting from excessive joint stress. Hardly anyone you know doesn’t fit onto that list somewhere.

The trick is getting that extra protein without absorbing a lot of extra calories, fillers or dairy products (as in the case of whey protein powder).

Collagen is a great way to get added protein. Did you know that collagen is the second-largest component of the human body after water? It’s a protein, and one found in muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, bones and more.

Historically, physicians have used collagen to treat skin trauma, such as burns and wounds. But collagen also affects the hair, nails and overall healthy appearance of skin, which is why you see it advertised in high-end skin care products.

As we age, our bodies stop producing collagen protein, and sadly, it’s collagen that gives our skin elasticity. So the appearance of dry, wrinkled skin is really the lack of collagen. Supplementing your diet with a natural source of collagen protein doesn’t just make you more youthful looking, however. Collagen builds lean healthy muscle – the muscle of youth – as well as healthy joints and bones. Can you think of a better supplement to give the special elders in your life?

Collagen protein also helps aid in the repair of muscle tissue. Because a good workout or physical exercise is actually breaking down the body’s muscles, collagen protein assists in the rebuilding process. Collagen makes it possible to heal faster, simultaneously building leaner muscle, following a workout. Some will even find they sleep more soundly when taking collagen protein. Sounds better all the time, doesn’t it?

You may wonder why a person can’t just eat more protein and gain the same benefits. It’s about bioavailability. Protein in food form has calories, of course, and a healthy daily diet only contains so many. The bioavailability of the protein also comes into question. By the time your body works to chew and digest the food, you’re not getting nearly as much protein as the amount you started with on your plate.

A powder form can provide extra protein without as much work for the body, but comes with the added calories of what it’s poured into. A liquid protein is your best bet. Find one that’s small in calories, and better yet, hydrolyzed – or “predigested” – which simply means that you ingest it in its smallest form, with no extra work for the body to break it down.

I encourage you to join me – and my husband and my teenage son – and add a low-cal collagen protein supplement to your diet. You could be amazed at the changes you experience. See the developing abs on the teen in the photo? That’s my son Cody, who drinks a liquid collagen protein supplement and works out regularly.

- Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian, sports nutrition authority, and and owner of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers, Florida. She can be contacted at Elaine@eatrightRD.com or by visiting Associatesin Nutrition.com.

Eliminate Triggers to Manage Migraine Headaches

Migraines are the tsunamis of headaches. Commonly described as “the worst headaches ever,” migraines can be managed, to a degree, with nutrition, but their cause is still being studied.

Fat-laden diets, medications, skipped meals, extremes in food temperatures and consuming large quantities of headache-risky foods have all been known to trigger migraines. Unfortunately, so have bright lights, weather, smoke, stress, menstruation, estrogen levels and physical activity.

Migraines are a painful puzzle three times more likely to affect women, and they run in families. If you know you’re susceptible, you may have learned that trigger foods can be more dangerous when combined with other triggers, and a headache can result hours or even days after a trigger food is ingested. You might do well to keep a food diary for a month, and look for your own patterns.

In the meantime, let’s look at what foods lessen the likelihood of an onset of a migraine, as well as what to ingest should you fall prey. Most experts agree on the triggers, so you’ve got a good starting point for migraine management. Picture migraines as the bull, intent on hurting you. A few specific foods can act as red capes, egging him to roar toward you with mal intent.

The first suspect is chocolate. Chocolate contains the nonessential amino acid tyramine, which also makes the list. Tyramine is thought to trigger headaches because it reduces serotonin levels in the brain, which affects blood vessel dilation. Because women crave chocolate during menstruation and hormonal changes, it is doubly suspect.

Chocolate is also intimately connected to stress, another trigger. Property values, visiting relatives, work deadlines and teens with attitudes can have us all reaching for a big slab of Hershey’s finest. Rethink this if you suffer from migraines, at least on a three-month trial basis.

Tyramine is produced when the amino acid tyrosine breaks down. Aging, fermenting or storing foods increases their tyramine levels. So aged cheese, cured meats, sauerkraut, fermented soy products and yeast all contain tyramine.

What you might never guess is where tyramine also hides: in fava beans, lentils, avocados, citrus, overripe bananas, nuts, peanut butter, seeds, pork and venison, bouillon cubes, canned soups and meat tenderizers.

Scientists thought that red wine was a trigger because of its tyramine levels, but now they suspect phytochemicals called phenols act as the trigger in vino rosso. Because alcoholic beverages of all kinds can trigger an attack, they add fuel to the serotonin-depletion argument.

Remembering that serotonin is called the happy hormone may inspire you to avoid things which deplete it, or at least consider doing them in moderation. Consuming large quantities of trigger foods or beverages is risky for sufferers, whereas they might “get away” with small indulgences.

Ingesting too much caffeine is another suspect trigger, but to underscore how confusing migraines are to scientists, some claim that too little caffeine can also cause problems. With the abundance of tasty decaffeinated drinks on the market, eliminating caffeine is logistically easy, if not physically. A registered dietitian can help you find supplements that will increase your energy levels and make up for that jolt upon which you’ve relied.

Lastly, food additives such as nitrites, nitrates and MSG (monosodium glutamate), are considered common migraine triggers, by increasing blood flow to the brain.

I hope, of course, that this column finds you pain-free and fully enjoying the southwest Florida lifestyle.

— Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition in Florida. Hastings can be contacted at info@ElaineHastings.com or by visiting AssociatesinNutrition.com. Follow @ElaineHastings on Twitter for daily nutrition tips.

Kitchen Wall Color has Diet Impact

Your kitchen is the center of your nutritional hub. It’s where you make your decisions on how (and how often) to fuel your own body, and the bodies of others you may be responsible for feeding. For some of you, it’s also the place where meals are served and consumed: at a bar or island, for example, or a casual kitchen table.

You’ve already taken control of what goes in your refrigerator; now summer’s your chance to take control of the mood your kitchen sets. Believe it or not, the color of your kitchen walls can have an impact on your diet. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate how you want your kitchen to make you feel, and seize the day.

First of all, there’s a reason that McDonald’s, Burger King and every fast food restaurant known to man incorporates red and yellow in their logos and décor. Want to guess why?

Let’s start with yellow. This cheery hue is good for optimism and hope. But it also stimulates the appetite, pure and simple. You just thought you wanted a salad … now you want a Big Mac with fries.

Yellow is happy, but to overweight people, it can also be a tad dangerous when applied to kitchen walls. Better to let a good workout stimulate the appetite than the mere presence of a color. Unless, of course, you are underweight.

Need to beef up? Head for the yellow section of the paint store and slather it on. Think butter, egg yolks, lemons … mmm, I’m getting hungry already. But yellow helps the memory, so it could be useful if mom’s not available for a recipe consult.

Orange stimulates learning. If you’re a new cook, or aspiring chef or nutritionist, opt for orange.

As for red, it is a complex color, perhaps the most of all. Red engages us and brings out our emotions. Here’s the amazing thing about this color: to calm people, it is exciting, in a good way, a little thrilling. But for folks who are more anxious in nature, red is disturbing. The last thing you want is to be disturbed eight to 12 times a day, so be honest with yourself about your nature, and that of others with whom you may live.

Red walls trigger the release of adrenaline (which can be good for cooking, I suppose). And like yellow, it also stimulates the appetite, while simultaneously stimulating the sense of smell. Red walls can also increase your blood pressure and breathing rate.

Blue is opposite of yellow, on the color wheel, and in terms of appetite. It decreases blood pressure, the breathing rate, and the desire to eat, as do indigo and violet. So if you’re determined to drop 20, 30, even 40 pounds … coat your walls in hues of blueberries, grapes or plums. This will also remind you to eat antioxidants, which is a good thing. You win on two counts!

Pink is also proven as a winning weight-control color, at none other than prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical University in Baltimore.

Violet is known for its ability to create balance. So as you’re planning your menus or dishing out portions of lean protein, fresh veggies and multigrain bread, look to your walls for inspiration. (Violet is also good for migraine sufferers).

This brings us to green, the color of all things fresh and good for our bodies. Green is relaxing, and also creates a sense of balance. It relaxes the body, and helps those who suffer from nervousness, anxiety or depression. Green may also aid in raising blood histamine levels, reducing sensitivity to food allergies. Antigens may also be stimulated by green, for overall better immune system healing.

Placing your sunlit fresh herbs near a green wall brings the outdoors in. That might also make you think about starting a garden, going for a walk or run, or cycling around the neighborhood.

Brown enhances a feeling of security, reduces fatigue and is relaxing. Black is a power color. If you have six-packs and you know it, raise your hand. Gray is the most neutral of all colors for the kitchen: not much happening there. Brighter hues inspire creativity and energy, while darker colors are peaceful and lower stress. Beige and off-white are “learning” colors.

Make good choices, on your walls, as well as your plate. What color should your kitchen be?

How Can We Encourage Kids to Be More Active?

From my notes for the Daybreak Show on Fox 92.5 with Trey Radel. It was fun, Southwest Florida !

Q: How can we motivate kids to be more active?

1. STOP for a bit after work and take your children to the park. The 20-30 min you spend with them will change their lives and yours.

2. Always have your tennis shoes and change of clothes or a gym bag in your car. It eliminates your excuses. Children are ready to have fun any time. We do in life, what we make time for and a shift in priorities is necessary. In this fast-paced, crazy life we live in, we forget our children only mimic us. If you’re a couch potato, what do you think you’re going to get

3. We live in Florida, go run on the beach, barefoot in the sand with your children. Play Frisbee. Talk a long walk in shallow water.

4. Pick an active hobby that helps others, like walking an elderly neighbor’s dog.

5. Plan games and activies that are fun but active – regular physical activity can improve mental health and mood for both you and your children.

6. Once school gets out, start your day with a walk in the morning before work, to just talk to your your child(ren). Try it just once and I guarantee it will be the MOST rewarding day you have had in a LONG time. You will have activity and learn something about your child(ren).

7. Take your kids to the pool with a snorkel and fins and thrown money in the pool, they will enjoy hunting for even pennies, dimes and nickels. Make a game out of it. How many can they get with one breath? Have them get only the pennies with one breath. Throw in a few quarters, half-dollars or specialty coins. Then let them keep a few at the end. (ps. Don’t forget the sun screen

Simple Changes at Home Encourage Nutrition

Posted May 27th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in nutrition

Q: What are some simple changes to make at home, which encourage better nutrition and health?
(in terms of shopping, habits, or schedules)

First and foremost: remember that kids mimic adults!
Your children will do what you do, eat what you eat!

With that in mind, here are some simple changes to make, which give the whole family a healthful advantage:

Don’t buy sodas
Don’t buy sugary breakfast cereals
Eat breakfast every day
Keep fruits and veggies on hand
Don’t let kids eat standing up: be mindful of each meal
Plant a garden at home with your kids
Grow or keep herbs in pots in the kitchen
Take walks after dinner or early in the day – a great time to talk (and listen)
Declare one day a week as treat day, when candy or dessert is allowed……..?

Smoothies Great in Many Ways

Smoothies are a great snack or meal replacement (and a mobile one at that). They’re especially healthy as a meal replacement if you follow my recommended pattern of eating five to six small meals per day.

Smoothies can also be effective for weight gain or weight loss and are super for helping you stay healthy. It’s all about what goes in the blender, and the beauty of smoothies is that you can customize them not only to your taste, but also to your dietary needs.

If, for example, you need a pick-me-up to aid in recovery after an athletic event or exercise, use orange juice, apple juice, skim milk, ice, soymilk, pineapple juice, Gatorade, water or low-fat chocolate milk as the liquid base. I typically recommend liquid recovery over solid because it’s absorbed faster, is quick to intake and easier to talk someone into doing if they’re hesitant to eat after a workout.

There’s also the rehydration factor.

I recommend smoothies and liquid supplements for the same reasons: they’re easier to consume, and have a faster availability of nutrients due to shorter transit time from ingestion to utilization. The science of nutrition says, quite simply, that liquids simply have a faster absorption rate.

If you’re trying to add protein to your diet, blend natural peanut butter, skim milk or almonds into your smoothie. Green tea smoothies can aid in weight loss as well as give you a healthy dose of antioxidants. I recommend Stevia, Agave and Splenda when you want to add sweetener.

At our house, we use frozen strawberries, banana, cranberry grape juice, AminoRip protein supplement and ice. If we want to make more of a shake, we add skim milk, or just replace the cran-grape with skim milk. When making smoothies for my 14-year-old son, however, I would use all of the above and replace skim milk with whole milk.

After-school snacks that include protein are another way to power-pack your kids with nutrient-dense foods. Almond milk, kale, cacao nibs and vanilla rice protein make a really good smoothie.

Keep your fridge stocked with smoothie ingredients and you’ll be far more likely to whip up a healthy treat for yourself, your friends or family. Buy fresh fruit in season and freeze it.

Yogurt smoothies made with frozen bananas or strawberries are terrific. Some of the tastiest fruits for smoothies include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, banana, apples, pineapple and peaches.

Get creative in how you mix them, and make yourself happy. Experimentation can lead to some wonderful surprises for your palate. It’s that easy.

Frozen fruit smoothies are a quick, nutritious breakfast food, hydrating you early and giving your body the full range of nature’s bioavailable vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. They’re also full of natural fiber and help boost the immune system. You sure can’t say that about a donut.

I love my Magic Bullet blender and the manufacturer has a ton of great smoothie recipes on its “Buy the Bullet” company website. Share your favorite recipe with me via the comments column at The News-Press.com, or on my Facebook page, and I will post the recipe, along with my thoughts, and/or recommended changes.

Don’t be tempted to skip a meal, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Substitute a smoothie instead. And if the thought of cleaning a blender is making your resistant to this oh-so-healthy option, I have fallen prey to that myself. Just head straight for Liquid Nutrition. You might see me there!

Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition & Sports Specialty in Florida. Hastings can be contacted at Elaine@associatesinnutrition.com or by visiting AssociatesinNutrition.com. Follow her on Twitter @elainehastings

Take the Challenge, Change your Life!

©2009 Associates in Nutrition Therapy. All Rights Reserved.

Seafood, Shellfish Important for Adults, Kids

Posted April 27th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

Fish: A Four-Letter Word for Healthy!

Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet, and nowhere is fresh fish easier to find than the coast. Increase your odds for a long and healthy life with a simple, tasty change: add fish to your weekly menus.

Here are some nutrition facts to motivate you. Fish is a lean, low-calorie source of protein and a great source of critical omega-3 fatty acids. These play a crucial role in brain function, as well as growth and development, and may even reduce the risk of heart disease.

But here’s the catch: the body can’t make them. We must go to the source for omega-3s, and in a seafood-centric environment, that’s easy. They come from fish – such as salmon, tuna, and halibut; other seafood, including algae and krill; some plants; and nut oils.

A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to the whole family’s well-being. Just remember, you don’t have to go overboard to reap the benefits. A little bit of “daily catch” goes a long way. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week (especially fatty fish like trout, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon) at least twice a week. I personally recommend consuming no more than one fish meal per week from predatory fish (shark, tuna, swordfish, etc.) and no more than two per week from non-predatory fish (sardines, salmon, shrimp, etc.). Very few palate-challenged people will be overwhelmed by this schedule.

Some of you are thinking ‘I know fish is good for you, but my family doesn’t really like it.’ There are many recipes that you can use which will increase the appeal. Look for salmon stuffed with crab and breadcrumbs, or use a tasty pesto to enhance the flavor (Costco offers one of the best I’ve found, in its refrigerated section) . Add grilled fish to a salad loaded with other items. Throw some shellfish into your marinara. Be creative and research ways that might make your family happy when consuming fish or shellfish. Here are two seafood recipes which will help:

Easy, tasty tuna salad
1can (12 oz) water-packed solid white tuna, drained
1/3 cup Yoplait® Fat Free plain yogurt
1can (4 oz) crushed pineapple, drained; or grapes
1 stalk celery, finely chopped (1/3 cup); or sweet onion
¼ cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl, mix tuna, yogurt, pineapple, celery, pecans, mustard, and cinnamon.
1 serving has approximately 180 Calories, Calories from Fat 50; Total Fat 6g (Saturated Fat 1/2g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 25mg; Sodium 420mg; Total Carbohydrate 11g (Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 9g); Protein 22g.

Shrimp tomato sauce over pasta; makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small bunch scallions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
¾ cup dry white wine or nonalcoholic white wine
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or basil
12 fresh or frozen and thawed jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
8 ounces spaghetti
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Warm oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add scallions and garlic. Cook 10 minutes, or just until scallions begin to turn golden.
2. Add tomatoes, wine, sugar, and 1/2 cup parsley or basil. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened.
3. Add shrimp and return to a summer. Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until shrimp is opaque.
4. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add sauce and toss to mix.
5. Sprinkle with Parmesan and remaining 1/4 cup parsley or basil.
Approximately 1 serving has about Calories 380, Calories from Fat 60; Total Fat 7g (Saturated Fat 2g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 65mg; Sodium 650mg; Total Carbohydrate 59g (Dietary Fiber 6g, Sugars 10g); Protein 19g

Next week, I’ll share some insights about mercury in fish. We’ll sort the truths from the rumors so you can relax at mealtime.