Tag Archives: nutrition

Winter Squash

By: Susan K. Wilkerson, RD, LD
Clinical Dietitian

Acorn Squash

Squash comes in many different shapes and sizes.  Different varieties are available throughout the year.  Summer squash arrives in stores soon after harvest is meant to be eaten shortly there after.  Winter squash is available in the summer and late fall.  Winter squash are “good keepers” and became known as a winter vegetable because they would “keep” until December back in the days when refrigerators were not around.  Winter squash is harvested when the “fruit” is fully matured.  The skin is a deep, solid color with a hard skin.  When you purchase them, the stem should be attached.

All varieties of winter squash are low in calories and are good sources for complex carbohydrates and fiber.  They are excellent sources of Vitamin A and a very good source of Vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese.  They are also a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, thiamin, copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6, niacin and pantothenic acid.  They contain healthy supporting antioxidants – lutein and zeaxanthin.

It would take a whole page to describe all the healthy reasons to eat winter squash!

All varieties of winter squash are easy to prepare.  For butternut and acorn squash, just cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and place in a baking dish with one inch of water to “steam.”  The squash is ready when it is fork tender.  Remove the flesh from the skin with a spoon or just eat it out of it natural container.  Spaghetti squash can be steamed whole in the oven or microwave.  Once tender to touch, cut it in half, remove the seeds, and “rake” out the flesh with a fork.  The flesh will look like spaghetti.  You can serve it hot, tossed with a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan cheese or use it in place of spaghetti noodles and top with your favorite pasta sauce.

So, eat a variety of squash.  They are delicious, good for you and add more color to you plate.

Spag Squash

Butter Squash

5 Second Rule – Are You Safe?

by Susan K Wilkerson, RD, LD

The majority of Americans are familiar with the “5 Second Rule.”  Drop a piece of food on a dirty surface or the floor, and if you pick it up within 5 seconds, it is not contaminated and is O.K to eat.  This is a common superstition and proven to be a myth.

The “5 Second Rule” was featured on an episode of the Discovery Channel series “MythBusters.”  They found there was no significant difference in the amount of bacteria collected from a 2-second exposure and a 6-second exposure.  The moisture, surface geometry, and location where the food item was dropped did, however, affect the number of bacteria.

Ted Allen put the rule to the test in an episode of “Food Detectives” and found that bacteria will cling to food immediately. High traffic areas will lead to even more bacteria on the food.

So says Dr. Jorge Parada, medical director of the infection prevention and control program at Loyola University Health System.  Parada cautioned that as soon as something touches an unclean surface, it picks up dirt and bacteria.  The amount of bacteria and what type depends on the object that is dropped and where it lands.

Rinsing off dropped food with water may not clean them entirely, but it could significantly reduce the amount of bacteria on it Parada noted.  “Maybe the dropped item only picks up 1,000 bacteria, but typically the amount of bacteria that is needed for most people to actually get infected is 10,000 bacteria – then the odds are that no harm will occur,” he said.

That’s not the case for items that are “cleaned” by licking them off or putting them in the mouth. “That is double-dipping,” Parada explained. “You are exposing yourself to bacteria and you are adding your own bacteria to it.  No one is spared anything with this move.”

So the lesson learned here is if food drops on an unclean surface, throw it out.  No minimal amount of time is safe from bacterial contamination.

There’s An Athlete In All of Us!

By:  Susan K. Wilkerson, RD, LD

Clinical Dietitian, Lexington Medical Center

The 2012 Summer Olympics in London start this month.  Many of us will be sitting in front of the TV for hours watching in amazement as these athletic specimens perform their feats.  Let’s take a peek at what the athletes eat.

From the beginning, food played a big part in an athlete’s life.  During Ancient Greek times most people ate breads, vegetables and fruits.  The meat source was fish for the people who lived near the sea.  The earliest records point to a cheese and fruit-based diet for the first Olympic athletes.  Ancient Olympians came from the upper class since wealthy families could feed their children more protein-rich legumes, cheeses and meats to build strong muscle.

A study of the diet of athletes in Berlin in 1936 (Schenk, 1936) based on the analysis of the diets of 4,700 competitors from forty-two nations, determined an average in-take of 320g of protein, 270g of fat and 850g of carbohydrates, which is 7,110 kcal/day.  The majority of the calories came from carbohydrates (48%).

Today, what you eat while you train and perform during your event makes a difference at the finish line.  With advance research and new technology, athletes today have specific needs for a specific task.  It’s all specialized, but it comes down to eating healthy fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean meats.  Highly processed refined foods are avoided.

So as we get inspired to get off the couch and walk around the block, let’s think about what we eat to fuel our bodies to complete the tasks of the day.  There is an athlete in all of us!  As it is today, food has always played an important part in the life of athletes.  In fact, at the first recorded Olympics in 776 BC, the winning runner was a cook, Koroibos from Elis.

  1. National Geographic News Ancient Olympians follow Adkins diet Scolar says  
  2. Grivetti, L. E. and Applegate, E. A. (1997) From Olympia to Atlanta: A Cultural-Historical Perspective on Diet and Athletic Training, The Journal of Nutrition Vol. 127 No. 5, pp. 860S-868S.
  3. Olympic diet in pictures, the Guardian The Observer.
  4. Schenk, P. (1936). Munch. med. Wschr. 83, 1535.