by Jennifer Benedetto MS, RD, LD, CNSC at LMC
The United States House of Representatives recently passed a bill that will block states from requiring GMO food labels. What are GMOs? Should we be concerned that these items are hidden in our food supply?
GMOs are genetically modified organisms.These plants, animals or microorganisms have had their genes changed in a way that is not possible in nature. These changes make the organisms thrive in their environment. For example, GM crops are produced by transferring a gene responsible for a beneficial characteristic into the DNA of a host plant’s cells. The cells within the seeds grow into a mature plant that displays the desired characteristics. Plants have been changed to be insect resistant, drought resistant, and virus resistant. GMOs are argued to be sustainable crops that will be available to feed a growing population.
The first GMO crops became commercially available in 1996. The major commercially available genetic engineered crops include alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, squash, sugar beet and sweet corn. GMO varieties became the majority of the US corn crop in 2005 and the majority of the soybean crop in 2000. It has been reported that “trillions of GM meals” have been consumed in the US. It is estimated that there is at least 1 GMO in a given processed food. High fructose corn syrup is a frequent GMO ingredient. But since these foods are not monitored or labeled, there is no way to study patterns of consumption and their impacts. Even though the vast majority of scientists say that eating GMO’s is safe, their inclusion in the food supply is controversial. In a January poll, 57% of Americans feared that GM foods are unsafe.
Unfortunately it seems the jury is still out on the safety of GMOs. For the time being, the only way to know that you are avoiding GMOs is to either eat organic foods or find foods with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal. The USDA National Organic Program prohibits the use of GMOs in any product that carries the “certified organic” label. The “Non-GMO Project” is an independent verification system dedicated to identifying products made without GMOs. A list of tested and approved products can be found on their website: www.nongmoproject.org.
Thank you to the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics for these important tips on ways to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Building a healthy plate is easy when you make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. It’s also a great way to add color, flavor and texture, plus vitamins, minerals and fiber. These benefits are packed in fruits and vegetables that are low in calories and fat. Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Try the following tips to enjoy more fruits and vegetables every day.
1. Variety abounds when using vegetables as pizza topping. Try broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini.
2. Mix up a breakfast smoothie made with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
3. Make a veggie wrap with roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla.
5. Grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
6. Add color to salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves or mandarin oranges.
7. Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner. Ready-to-eat favorites: red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or whole radishes.
9. Get saucy with fruit. Puree apples, berries, peaches or pears in a blender for a thick, sweet sauce on grilled or broiled seafood or poultry, or on pancakes, French toast or waffles.
10. Stuff an omelet with vegetables. Turn any omelet into a hearty meal with broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes or onions with low-fat sharp cheddar cheese.
11. “Sandwich” in fruits and vegetables. Add pizzazz to sandwiches with sliced pineapple, apple, peppers, cucumber and tomato as fillings.
12. Wake up to fruit. Make a habit of adding fruit to your morning oatmeal, ready-to-eat cereal, yogurt or toaster waffle.
13. Top a baked potato with beans and salsa or broccoli and low-fat cheese.
14. Microwave a cup of vegetable soup as a snack or with a sandwich for lunch.
15. Add grated, shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach and carrots to lasagna, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce and rice dishes.
16. Make fruit your dessert: Slice a banana lengthwise and top with a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of chopped nuts.
18. Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Add chickpeas or edamame (fresh soybeans). Top with low-fat dressing.
19. Fruit on the grill: Make kabobs with pineapple, peaches and banana. Grill on low heat until fruit is hot and slightly golden.
20. Dip: Whole wheat pita wedges in hummus, baked tortilla chips in salsa, strawberries or apple slices in low-fat yogurt, or graham crackers in applesauce.