Learn good habits for food safety

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Every lesson for the cook: Waste not, Want not, Mother’s words years ago. However, true today, especially with the COVID-19 virus affecting our food choices and food supply.

Food prices are affected by our food waste and still people in the United States go hungry because of lack of money to buy, lack of time for preparation, and lack of interest in the nutritional value of our food.

We have a unique opportunity to use everything available in our refrigerators, freezers, and pantries to avoid waste and regain control of our food use because we have time to cook and incentive not to waste.

Time-wise, frozen and canned produce score high as fast fixings. There is no washing, peeling, cutting or chopping and little spoilage. Frozen fruits and vegetables remain at peak quality for 6-8 months in the freezer and two years canned. It is no wonder that adults who include canned produce in their meals ultimately eat more fruits and vegetables overall.

In fact, research shows that some produce, such as frozen corn, green beans and blueberries, contain more vitamin C than fresh. Frozen peas, green beans and spinach are nutritious choices too. Studies show that vitamins in frozen vegetables and fruits remain about the same, or sometimes even higher, than their fresh forms.

Canned tomatoes have more B vitamins and provide more of the photochemical lycopene than raw tomatoes. Canning also helps make the dietary fiber in beans more useful to our bodies.

Choose frozen produce without sugar or sauces and fruits canned in 100% juice or light syrup. You can rinse and drain canned beans and vegetables to cut their sodium nearly half, or look for low sodium or no-salt-added options for even lower sodium content. Frozen berries do not need to be thawed before blending to make smoothies or adding into oatmeal as it cooks.

Breaking stress related eating habits. Eating in response to negative feelings is a learned response that can become a habit. Some research shows that older adults and people, who have been through chronic illnesses, including cancer survivors, tend to worry more — about the future, their health, being a burden to children and fear of recurrence. That puts them at a higher risk for falling into a cycle of worry that can lead to stress eating. However – patterns can be changed using techniques that encourage healthy eating.

Practice mindfulness, using present-moment attention and awareness. Creating a pause before eating can put the brakes on emotion and eating. Creating more awareness of our emotional triggers – work, social and family obligations – helps us understand how these feelings influence eating.

Observe your feelings first:

Pause: Take a deep breath. Observe any thoughts or emotions. Become aware of how hungry or full you feel.

Reflect: Consider how your food got to you and who helped make it. Feel a sense of gratitude or appreciation.

Engage: Enjoy your food with all your senses: notice its colors, textures, flavors, aromas and sounds. Take smaller bites and eat slowly; try to chew each bite 20-30 times.

Check: Tune in again to your level of hunger and fullness.

Sleep: Get enough sleep and practice good sleep hygiene behaviors. These might include turning off your phone or putting it in a different room. Sleep deprived brains do a poor job regulating emotions and food impulses.

Move: Regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes a day) can help break the cycle between emotions and eating, as well as stimulate appetite. Do something fun. Swim, dance, stretch on the floor, swing your arms or walk in the sunshine. Move at least once an hour and breathe.

Finally – self-compassion: Be kind to yourself while working on these skills. You are retraining yourself to learn a new habit.

Sneak more vegetables into meals. Fiber-rich plant foods, which include beans and whole grains, are digested more slowly. This creates a more satisfied feeling and longer lasting energy. Water adds bulk to a food, too, and helps keep you hydrated. Put lower calorie eating together with at least 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity and that will help you ward off weight gain that can hamper healthy aging.

Watch your portion sizes too. Research shows that using smaller plates, bowls and drinking glasses can help curb portions. In addition, filling up first on vegetable salad with low-fat vinaigrette dressing – or eating a bowl of broth-based or tomato soup – can lead to eating less of a main course.

During this quarantine experiment, new healthy recipes and food choices. Occasionally it is nice to have a sweet snack for dessert using those frozen fruits you may have stocked up on. Try this Crockpot recipe for a small sweet with less than 300 calories per serving.

Crockpot Blueberry Crumble:

Cooking spray

20 oz. frozen blueberries

1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup almond slivers

1/2 cup flaxseed meal

3 Tbsp. Honey

3 Tbsp. Butter, melted

Spray inside of Crockpot with cooking spray. Place blueberries on bottoms of Crockpot. Stir together oatmeal, pecans, almonds and flaxseed meal and evenly distribute over berries. Add honey to melted butter, mix and pour over blueberry and oatmeal layers. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or on high for 2 hours. Enjoy on its own or top with plain Greek yogurt.

Stay healthy. Stay safe. Stay strong!

Oneida County OFA provides nutrition counseling and education for the Aging and Continuing Care/NY Connects. Anyone with questions about services and programs for older adults and caregivers, including the Senior Nutrition Program, should call Oneida County Office for the Aging/NY Connects at 315-798-5456

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