Tag Archives: food safety

GMO Fact or Fiction, Part 1

I bought a box of Cheerios last week and noticed that they are labeled as GMO free. Chipotle Restaurants also recently announced that their menu is going GMO free (more on that later). Add these to news articles, blog posts, etc that I have seen in the past few weeks, GMO foods are definitely a hot topic in the nutrition world. Unfortunately, I feel like many people are making decisions without all the information. In light of that, I’m going to do a series of posts about GMO foods over the next few weeks. Hopefully, you will come away better able to make an informed decision.

Part 1: What are GMOs?

GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. GMOs are also referred to as GEs (for “genetically engineered”). GMOs are organisms (usually plants, but sometimes animals) that have had their DNA altered in some way to give it a more desirable characteristic. A plant can be made to be more hardy and withstand drought, heat, or other nature extremes. Resistance to herbicides or pesticides are also common traits used in genetic engineering. Nutrients can also be added, such as beta-carotene added to rice in the product Golden Rice.

GMOs are a modern extension of centuries-old practices in agriculture of breeding. Farmers have been cross-breeding plants for a long time. GMOs take that practice and add a dose of modern science. Instead of just breeding plants together, scientists can add genes directly into a plant that could not be added through breeding. For example, a gene from fish can be added to tomatoes to make them last longer post-harvesting.

GMOs are regulated by the government. The Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture all have roles in the regulation of GMOs. Food products are not required to be labeled if they contain GMOs. However, all food certified by the USDA as “organic” is GMO free. The USDA also recently announced a voluntary certification program for labeling foods as GMO free.

Corn, soybean, sugar beets, squash, papaya, and canola are the only commercial GMOs in the food supply in the US. Most of us consume these products in processed foods, such as corn oil, soybean oil, and high fructose corn syrup. It is estimated that 70% of processed foods contain at least one genetically modified ingredient.  Animal feed often contains GMOs as well.  I was unable to find information on how this changes the composition of the meat or poultry we consume.  But it is another way GMOs can enter our diet.

I hope some of this information is helpful. My next installment will discuss the pros of GMOs. Until then, happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Food Safety and Leftovers

Leftover night

I mentioned in a previous menu planning post that Tuesday night is leftover night at our house. I love it. I don’t have to think about what to eat or have to cook one night a week. It keeps my fridge cleared out and has helped with my food budget. As a family, we call it our “best of” night, since we get to eat a little bit of the best of what we ate in the previous days.

Whether you eat leftovers like we do or if you re-purpose your leftovers into something else, food safety with leftovers is important. We all know to be careful handling raw meat and eggs, to keep dairy cold, and to cook meat to the proper temperature. But the traditional “there’s no mold and it doesn’t smell yet” test really isn’t good enough when it comes to leftovers. Here are a few food safety guidelines for leftovers.

-Leftovers can keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 to 4 months in the freezer. Frozen leftovers can last longer but will suffer in quality after that amount of time.

-Wrap your leftovers well. Don’t just put the whole pizza box in the fridge. You want airtight containers to prevent moisture and bacteria from spreading around.

-Cool your leftovers quickly. Don’t let your food sit out on the table or the counter for a long time. Prepare it for the fridge or freezer as quickly as possible. Use small enough containers that foods will cool rapidly.

-Reheat your leftovers properly to at least 165 degrees F. Soups or sauces should be brought to a boil. Reheat leftovers as quickly as possible, which may mean safely thawing them first if they are frozen.

For more information on leftover food safety, visit the USDA website.

What are your favorite leftovers or uses for repurposing them? I’d love to hear in the comments section.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Minimizing food waste

Perfection is in taste, not appearance

I admit to not being the most “green” person. While I try to recycle and take other small steps to be environmentally friendly, it isn’t my highest priority. However, I recently saw some alarming statistics: about 40% of all food produced in the Unites States is thrown away and that the average American throws out 20% of their vegetables and 15% of their fruit. Unlike the two articles reporting these, my first thought wasn’t related to how much that adds to the landfills and greenhouse gas production.

My first thought was in the wasted money. Much of that discarded produce was purchased and then thrown away without eating it, often due to spoilage. If you think you can’t afford fruits and vegetables, you definitely can’t afford to just throw them away. I hate when something spoils before I use it, because all I see is money going into the trash can. Here are some tips to reduce how much produce you throw away:

1. Take inventory at home before you go to the store. This reduces double-buying an item.

2. Make a detailed list and stick to it. Know how much you need of a particular item so you don’t overbuy. For example, I needed tomatoes this last week for a few recipes. I forgot to right down how many I needed, so I purchased several extra tomatoes that I need to quickly find a use for. Also, don’t buy an item just because it is on sale. I often get excited to see berries or melons on sale, but if you don’t have a plan for how it will get eaten, it will just go bad.

3. Rotate your produce. Make sure if you buy new items, they go behind or below the older ones already at home. That way the produce most likely to spoil is getting used first.

4. Store your produce wisely. Here is a handy graphic with some great tips on where to store different types of produce as well as foods to keep separated. Another great tip: separate your bananas when you get home. They will ripen more slowly this way.

While I have admitted to not be very “green”, I do agree with the article talking about the ugly vegetables. Don’t be afraid of a vegetable just because it doesn’t look perfect. Remember, you don’t look perfect either, but the vegetable is willing to take a chance on you. Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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