Before you embark on your journey, choose your snack wisely.
March is Nutrition Month — Eat Right
National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The California Raisin Marketing Board would like to join with ADA in bringing you more information about the importance of eating right and learning more about nutrition and the food that brings it to us.
One of the first places to look for this information is at the grocery store as you do your shopping. Understanding and using the Nutrition Facts labels can help you make wise choices and be sure that you and your family eat right. Go to www.loveyourraisins.com/healthy/labelinfo.cfm to learn about the information you will find on that label. Then, pay particular attention to it and other information that you will find on packages at the grocery store.
Other Things to Look For on Food Labels
Let’s take a look at some of those others, such as “organic”, “natural”, “cage free” or “free range” “made with” or “made from”.
Organic – Products marked with the Department of Agriculture logo and certain other symbols for organic from accredited certifying organizations — the State of California is one of these — are usually meaningful because the government sets fixed standards for them. These include “100% organic” for those containing only organic ingredients, “organic” with at least 95% organic ingredients, and “made with organic ingredients” that requires at least 70% organic contents. Water and salt do not count toward the percentage of organic and any nonorganic ingredient must come from an approved national list.
Natural – When it comes to “natural,” read the Ingredient list carefully. The Food and Drug Administration does not officially define the term and USDA does not regulate its use on meat and poultry.
Cage free or free range – The USDA does not regulate the use of “cage free” at all and it uses “free range” only for poultry, not other meat or eggs. Five minutes of open-air access daily is all it takes to qualify as a “free range” chicken.
Made with or made from – Are virtually meaningless terms since they do not say how much of an ingredient was used or how it was processed.
Whole grains – A good choice of bread would list “whole wheat” or some other whole grain as the first ingredient and should provide at least 2 grams of fiber per slice. Look for labels that say “100 percent whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat” or check the ingredient list where white flour, enriched wheat flour, unbleached wheat flour, or just wheat flour should not appear on the list at all or only very near the end.
Health rating – The American Heart Association’s heart check and other such labels are supposed to make it easier to identify healthful choices. This spring, you may begin to see the Smart Choices symbol on more food packages. Smart Choices is a program developed by a coalition of scientists, public health officials, and food-industry representatives. The symbol will include a check mark and will list calories per serving and the number of servings in the package.
Serving size – Check this part of the Nutrition Facts label very carefully. If you intend to eat the whole package by yourself, be sure you know how many servings it contains and do the math to find out how many calories you will consume.
Health claims – Avoid reading too much into health claims. Be sure to check the disclaimer on the label that describes the evidence for the claim. You may need to eat several servings everyday to benefit as claimed.
Nutritional claims – The real key to what is in a product is the ingredients list that arranges components in descending weight order. Check ingredient lists very carefully for things like hydrogenated vegetable shortening and others known to contain unhealthful properties. The FDA allows products that contain as much as 0.5 grams trans fat per serving to be labeled with 0 grams trans fat.
Open dates – Include Sell-by Date, Best-if-Used by (or before) Date, and Use-By or Expiration Date. The Sell-by Date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Best-if-Used-by Date recommends when the product will be at its best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date. Use-By or Expiration Date is the last date recommended by the manufacturer for using the product while at peak quality.
Holidays and Occasions in March
St Patrick’s Day is associated with everything Irish, anything green and gold, shamrocks and luck. America celebrates with parades, “wearing of the green”, music and songs, Irish food and drink, and special activities for the kids. At least one community goes so far as to dye their river green, and getting caught without “wearing of the green” can get you a painful pinch on this day. In Ireland, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, is observed as a day for spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide.
Pick a shamrock for luck, believe in leprechauns, and kiss the Blarney Stone to improve your speech, or just celebrate, celebrate, celebrate on this day. Party or family fare in the Irish tradition would include colcannon — known better as garlic-flavored mashed potatoes; Irish stew; seafood and shellfish of all kinds; and Irish soda or wheaten breads.
First Day of Spring occurs when the Sun reaches the vernal equinox on March 20 and the day is as long as the night. As the Earth continues to tilt toward the Sun, the length of the days rapidly increases until June 22 and the summer solstice arrives. Spring is busting out all over, and it is time to get back to all those outdoor activities that were put on hold through the cold and snows of winter.
As Valerie Waters notes, “Families that play together, get fit together. It is great if your child participates in a sport like soccer or dance, but find something for the family to do together, too — a bike ride, family day at the park, or even something as simple as playing tag or Red Rover. The key is to spend time together doing something active. Help your child realize that exercise equals fun.”
Spend more time in the sun for gardening, playing and just enjoying, then follow with a family lunch menu of soup, salad or sandwiches. The prize-winning Caramelized Onion Soup with Golden Raisin Pesto brings some of those earthy flavors indoors after a morning in the yard.
These are just a few of the great recipes to be found at LoveYourRaisins.com. Wherever you go, whatever you do, California Raisins can add to the fun and enjoyment. From snacks to soups and sauces to special desserts, they are the Wise Choice for better eating, every time!
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