Monday, March 30, 2015

My Super Tracker is the USDA website aimed at providing a resource for parents, educators and consumers. Their recommendations are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that are updated every 5 years. (before 2010 we had "my pyramid" instead of "my plate"). The SuperTracker program is a great tool that allows you to create a diet plan based on your age, height, weight, gender, activity level and/or ideal caloric intake. You can type in everything you eat to the super tracker and get an in-depth nutrient report that lets you know how close your actual intake is to the recommended dietary guidelines for nutrients. I have used this program several times for class projects at Queens College. I definitely recommend checking out these sources and evaluating your own diet.

SuperTracker can help you plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity.     

While using the supertracker, I have learned a few tricks. If the database dosent have the food you're looking for, you can click one that's similar and "customize" the nutrient information based on a food label you have. Another trick is to create a "combo" or "recipe" by searching individual ingredients. This seems to work best for meals made at home. Whenever you're recording what you eat, the more accurate your portion sizes, the more accurate the nutrient information will be.

As an example of diets that meet the recommended guidelines, the following is part of my term project for Meal Planning & Management class:

Meal: Menu: Approximate Amount Eaten:
22 year old female, 125lbs, 5'9” 18yr male, 140lbs, 5'9” 3 yr old female
Breakfast Oatmeal 1 cup 2 cups ½ cup

Almond Milk ½ cup 1 cup ¼ cup

Fruit Smoothie 2 cups 2 cups 1 cup

Lunch Lettuce/Spinach Salad Mix 1 cup 1 ½ cup ½ cup

Tomato 1 medium 2.5 inch 1 large 3 inch 1 small 2 inch

Balsamic Vinaigrette 1 Tablespoon 1 Tablespoon ½ Tablespoon

Whole Wheat Spaghetti 1 cup 1 ½ cup 2 oz

Marinara Sauce ½ cup ¾ cup 1 oz

Afternoon Snack Green Smoothie 2 cups 2 cups 2 cups

Dinner Ground Beef, seasoned 4oz 4oz 3 oz

Flour Tortilla Shell 8 inch 2 shells 2 shells 1 shell

Salsa 4 Tablespoons 4 Tablespoons 2 Tablespoons

Shredded Lettuce ¼ cup ¼ cup ¼ cup

Grated Cheddar Cheese 1 oz 1 oz 2 Tablespoons

Snacks Almonds, raw nuts1/4 cup1/4 cup1 oz

Daily Recommended Intake Ranges:

Approximate Calories 2260 (of recommended 2200) 2799 (of recommended 2800) 1231 (of rec. 1200)
(12-20%) % Calories from Protein 14 13 17
(45-65%) % Calories from Carbs 61 63 52
(25-35%) % Calories from Fat 30 28 35

Food Groups: % Met for Grains 106 104 123

% met for Veggies 100 123 130

% met for Fruit 129 113 178
** % met for Dairy 22 22 13

% met for Protein 113 100 147

Nutrients: Dietary Fiber 34g of recommended 25g 45g of recommended 38g 22g of recommended 19g
## Sodium 2455mg of rec. <2300mg 3024mg of rec. <2300mg 1293mg of rec. <2300mg

Total Sugars 185g 223g 47g

Calcium 1416mg of rec. 1000mg 1795mg of rec. 1300mg 820mg of rec. 700mg

Vitamin A 828ug of rec. 700ug 1681ug of rec. 900ug 724ug of rec. 300ug

Vitamin C 137mg of rec. 75mg 107mg of rec. 75mg 6mg2 of rec. 15mg

** My meal plan matches the 2010 Guidelines for Americans except for the dairy food group. I found it strange when I did this project that no matter who you are, a toddler or a college student, the recommendation for dairy doesn't change. Every other food group changes in proportion to the number of calories recommended. I also find it weird given how much of the population is lactose intolerant. My plan incorporates whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits that fulfill the recommendations of the Guidelines. I found myself going over the recommended levels for grains, fruits or proteins easily and had to adjust. I never had trouble meeting the macronutrient ranges, but I kept exceeding them. Particularly for percent of calories from fat.

## I was under 10% of calories from saturated fat for all 3 people, according to the guidelines. For Sodium, my diet was over the recommendation by 155mg and the 18 year old male was over by 724mg. However, the 3 year old's diet was under by 1,000mg. I found it really hard to stay within the recommendation. I'm sure I'm not the only American who struggles with sodium intake, it seems to be in everything! I think we need to change the food we produce not the intake recommendations.

I'm not too worried about saturated fat intake since it was within recommended levels. The taco meat and cheese were probably the main source of it in my diet plan. The sodium intake was definitely influenced by the amount of salad dressing and spaghetti sauce. The salad dressing could have been replaced by something healthier and the sauce would have been lower sodium if it was homemade. To stay within recommended amounts I would make foods at home, reducing the amount of sodium in the recipes. I would also be sure to carefully measure out portions of dressing, sauce and cheese. It's easy in everyday life to eat more than we realize and go over for that saturated fat or sodium.

I was able to meet the dietary fiber intake recommendations for all 3 people. I believe the fiber in my diet plan comes from the fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I would agree with recommending 4 ½ cups of fruit & vegetables in the meal plan. I felt like the recommendation for daily fruit intake on my plate was kind of low. I think it is realistic for the US population if we can get people snacking on fruits and vegetables instead of chips and candy. I think we are already starting to see industry changes, fruits and vegetables are offered as snacks in more and more places. They even have apple slices and carrot sticks at the movie theater now. Consumers should not be underestimated. If the information is out there and healthy choices are made more affordable/easily available people will make better choices.

My meal plan met the Calcium, Iron, B-Vitamins, Vitamin C and Vitamin A recommendations for all 3 people. Vitamin D was under the recommendations for all 3. I would look for D fortified OJ and cereals. I would try to get vitamin D through natural sun exposure as weather permits. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Understanding Food Labels: ORGANIC defined

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 created the National Organic Standards Board. This board defined organic and set up a certification system for organic growers and handlers. Today the USDA strictly regulates what foods can use the organic label. Crops, livestock and processed products can all be labeled as organic if they follow specific standards. From the USDA website:

Organic crops: The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.

Organic livestock: The USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.

Organic multi-ingredient foods: The USDA organic seal verifies that the product has 95% or more certified organic content. If the label claims that it was made with specified organic ingredients, you can be sure that those specific ingredients are certified organic.

The USDA regulates the following labels:

100% Organic:  
- All ingredients must be certified organic
- Any processing aids must be organic
- Product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel
-If a product is 100% Organic it will often be labeled to include the 100% if it is a product that included multiple ingredients

- All agricultural ingredients must be certified organic, except where specified on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
- Non-organic ingredients allowed per National List may be used, up to a combined total of five percent of non-organic content (excluding salt and water). 
- Product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel

To earn this label, products must be made up of at least 95% organic ingredients.

The USDA regulates the use of these other labels as well:

Made With Organic: Multi-ingredient agricultural products in the “made with” category must meet these criteria: - At least 70 percent of the product must be certified organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). - Any remaining agricultural products are not required to be organically produced but must be produced without excluded methods (see page 1). - Non-agricultural products must be specifically allowed on the National List. - Product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel. May state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories).” Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere, represent finished product as organic, or state “made with organic ingredients.” Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

Natural: As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to processing of meat and egg products. There are no standards or regulations for the labeling of natural food products if they do not contain meat or eggs.

Free-Range: This label indicates that the flock was provided shelter in a building, room, or area with unlimited access to food, fresh water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle. The outdoor area may or may not be fenced and/or covered with netting-like material. This label is regulated by the USDA.

Cage-Free: This label indicates that the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.

Grass Fed: Grass-fed animals receive a majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their life, while organic animals’ pasture diet may be supplemented with grain. Also USDA regulated, the grass-fed label does not limit the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. Meat products may be labeled as grass-fed organic.

In the past decade, many consumers have become concerned with where there food comes from. Non-profit organizations have started regulating certain issues that the USDA doesn't address. I repeat, these labels are NOT regulated by the US government but by non-profit organizations. Most of these groups have been around for years now and I believe them to be reliable. 

The Non-GMO Project: 
-An Action Threshold of 0.9% is used. This is in alignment with laws in the European Union (where any product containing more than 0.9% GMO must be labeled)
-Absence of all GMOs is the target for all Non-GMO Project Standard compliant products. Continuous improvement practices toward achieving this goal must be part of the Participant’s quality management systems.
-Rigorous trace ability and segregation practices are required to ensure ingredient integrity through to the finished product.

Certified Humane:
-Supported by the ASPCA and Center for Food Safety 
-Strict standards spelled out for each type of livestock

The Leaping Bunny:
-International organization that worked to get Europe's ban on animal testing
-Cruelty free products that have not been tested on animals, whose ingredients have not been tested on animals
-Online search engine for certified companies

The labels are intended to help consumers make informed decisions. It's important to know what we are buying, what practices our money is supporting and what chemicals we are putting in our bodies.

Whole Foods Markets and PBS have partnered to help educate consumers about buying organic foods through the Fantastic Organic website which serves as a resource for recipes and healthy eating tips.

Monday, March 16, 2015

4 Ingredient Home Made Deodorant (Coconut Scent)

I originally tried natural deodorant when I got one in a monthly subscription box from VeganCuts. I had not put much thought into my deodorant choices in the past, I'd been using men's Old Spice for years. I was hesitant to try this new five-ingredient deodorant. I wasn't sure if it would actually work and the consistency was different than traditional deodorant. I have been using the natural deodorant for about six months now. It last longer than old spice ever did for me. The scent is more subtle but it truly does the job. My first natural deodorant was from North Coast Organics. I have since discovered a similar 6 ingredient deodorant from The Fanciful Fox.

Death By Lavender 

I really liked this deodorant. As it started to near the end of the tube, I read the ingredient list and realized I could easily make this. I went online to compare recipes and ended up with this based on what I had in my apartment. Other recipes use different types of waxes or oils. I like coconut oil for the tropical smell. Coconut oil has a pretty low melting point (76F) which makes it easy to work with and it wont be hard to apply because it wont get too solid. I live in New York. If you live in a warmer climate I would definitely suggest using a more solid base for your deodorant. My first batch with just 4 basic ingredients came out looking like this:

Recipe for DIY Coconut Deodorant:
4 Tablespoons Virgin Coconut Oil
1 Tablespoon Shea Butter
3 Tablespoons Baking Soda
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
*optional 5-10 drops oil for scent

- Makes 100mL
- Store at above 77F to keep it solid