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Spice up your Plate!
Dietetic Student, Eastern Michigan University
Food is always better when it is seasoned correctly, and according to McCormick, Americans are exploring new options to spice up their food now more than ever. McCormick, a spice company that has been in sales since 1889, reports that today’s home cook is likely to keep at least 40 seasonings in their kitchen (1). Compare this to the average of 10 spices that homemakers utilized in the 1950’s, and you’ll see what adventurous cooks we have become.
The rising use of a variety of spices reflects a trend to decrease sodium, fat and sugar levels in foods. Utilizing spices instead of calorically dense condiments and additives can help to decrease the risk of serious health threats, including heart disease and stroke. The average adult consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day; however, the daily recommendations are only 2,300 milligrams for a healthy adult and no more than 1,500 milligrams for at-risk populations. Next time you want to reach for the salt shaker to add some flavor to a meal, try utilizing a spice or sodium-free spice blend instead. Mrs. Dash offers several blends that are free of salt that can be put on just about anything, from burgers and fruit to pasta and vegetables. Not all spices are sodium-free, so it is important to look for this on the label. Garlic salt and celery salt are just two examples of spices blended with salt.
The top three selling spices, black pepper, vanilla extract and cinnamon, have remained the same since the end of World War II, however our spice racks have still gone through a dramatic makeover. Oregano, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika are spices that have gained recent popularity while sales figures for former top sellers like allspice and lemon extract have fallen slightly (1). When you look at the spice aisle today, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the choices. With a little experimentation and exploration of new recipes, you’ll notice that there are plenty of ways to utilize the wide variety of available spices. Oregano, currently one of the more popular spices, is great on pizza, vegetables, meat and fish. As a staple ingredient in Italian-American food, you are likely to find it bread dips, sauces, and pasta dishes.
Not only do spices add flavor to foods, but they also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals. In 2005 it was noted that iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, and potassium were the major mineral contributors and vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C were the top vitamin contributors from the spice supply (2). The antioxidant activity of spices is another benefit to keeping them in your meal rotations. Antioxidants work to prevent damage to your body cells caused by free radicals and can also help to improve immune function. McCormick recognizes several antioxidant-rich “super spices” because of their nutrition and health benefits. These spices include: black pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, garlic powder, ginger, oregano, red pepper, rosemary, thyme and turmeric (3). These versatile spices can be added to a wide assortment of meals, so look for recipes with these ingredients.
Next time you’re looking to prepare a meal, think about ways to spice up your dish. Regularly incorporating spices into your foods will give you flavorful meals with tremendous health benefits. Experiment with new varieties and remember, a little bit can go a long way to turn your meal into something truly tasty!
1. Reinagel M. Not your mother's spice cabinet. Food and Nutrition. 2012 Spring:14-17.
2. Hiza H. Availability of spices on the rise in the U.S. food supply. Alexandria (VA): USDA, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Nutrition Insight 39. 2008 March.
3. Spices for Health [Internet]. Sparks (MD): McCormick & Company, Inc.; [Updated 2011; cited 2012 October 30]. Available from: http://www.mccormick.com/SpicesForHealth/SuperSpices.aspx
Last Updated on Monday, 06 May 2013 17:10
Q: Has Norfolk Public Schools made any changes to the school meal program?
A: For the first time in 15 years, school meals across the nation will see major changes thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2012 (HHFK). This Act has re-authorized the nation’s core Child Nutrition Programs including both school breakfast and school lunch. The HHFK has brought school meals in line with the latest nutritional science and the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The new meal standards went into effect July 1, 2012. Here in Norfolk, School Nutrition has been continuously working to implement healthier options into school meals for several years. This year, School Nutrition reaches the pinnacle of our efforts as we work to comply with the new standards put forth by the HHFK.
When your student enters the cafeteria this year, there will be a few changes from last year:
· A greater variety of fruits and vegetables will be offered daily. Each day at school lunch, students will be able to select from a variety of fruits and vegetables. The majority of the fruits and vegetables offered on our menu are served with no added fat or sugar and in the fresh or frozen state. With the breakfast or lunch meal, students must choose 1 serving of a fruit or a vegetable and we encourage them to choose more if they like.
· A rainbow of vegetables will be available every week. Each week, School Nutrition will make sure that students are offered 1 or more servings of dark green and red/orange vegetables. These vegetables have vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are important for your student’s growing body. Beans and other legumes will be available throughout the week as well.
· School Nutrition is proud to be 100% whole grain rich. After several years of gradual implementation, all grains are qualified whole grain favorites from the whole wheat sandwich bread right down to the whole grain pizza crust.
· TruMoo milk is truly delicious! All flavored milk sold during school meals are fat free, have no high fructose corn syrup, and only contain 10 grams of added sugar. TruMoo flavored milk has less added sugar than flavored enhanced water beverages, sports drinks, and soda.
· Fat, sodium, and calories are on a budget. Throughout the course of one week, School meals average less than 10% calories from saturated fat, and each item contains zero grams of trans fat. Calorie levels have also been set for each grade level and are in compliance with the latest dietary guidelines. School Nutrition is working to limit the amount of sodium in the menu until we reach a final maximum of 740 mg per meal.
For more information about healthy school meals, click here .
Breakfast and lunch are free of charge for all free and reduced students. For the paid student, breakfast is $0.90 in all schools and lunch is $1.70 at the elementary level and $1.85 at the secondary level.
To share your good school meal experience or to learn more about school meals visit www.traytalk.org for more info!
See you in the cafeteria!
Christina Kepa, M.S. RD
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 September 2012 18:10