Food safety tips during and after a power outage

Many of us in Florida are dealing with power outages this hurricane season and that means our refrigerated and freezer items are at risk for developing bacteria.  The question that immediately comes up is, is it safe to eat? Perhaps it’s time for a refresher on a few food safety tips:

  1. Cold (refrigerated) foods should be kept at or below 40ºF. Your appliance will have a temperature setting to tell you where it’s at, but try to avoid opening it as much as possible so you don’t let the cool air out. A closed refrigerator that is full should keep the food cold enough for about four hours.  Once the temp drops below 40ºF, you have a two hour window before the food becomes an ideal environment to grow bacteria.
    • Hopefully you’ve stocked up on ice and coolers to start putting your important items in. Personally, I suggest consuming high risk items prior to reaching above 40º such as eggs, mayonnaise and mayonnaise based products such as tuna/potato/chicken salad and any leftovers.
    • Fruits and vegetables will last much longer than two hours and many are shelf stable, so don’t worry too much about these. An exception would be berries and grapes that tend to spoil quickly. Eat those first.
  2. Frozen items should be kept at or below 0ºF. Again, your freezer should tell you this, but don’t open it more than you have to. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full).
    • It is best to keep the items close together so they keep each other cold. Once it rises above 0ºF, watch it as many of those items will be okay if cooked before reaching above 40ºF. Unfortunately if they go over that 40ºF past two hours, especially frozen meats, it’s time to throw them out. It’s just not worth the risk of getting sick.
    • Remember, you can put some of your refrigerated items in the freezer to keep them under their 40ºF for a longer period of time and you may be able to save them.
    • Having extra ice packs, even dry ice if you can get some, full tupperware of frozen water, and full frozen ice trays stocked in your freezer can help keep the food at ideal temperatures for as long as possible.
  3. Hopefully you stocked up on nonperishables. If you didn’t, there will likely be a next time and might as well plan sooner than later. These are some of my favorites:
    • Quest protein bars
    • Starbucks light double shots (gotta have coffee)
    • Trail mix or mixed nuts or any kind of nuts are great
    • Peanut butter or any kind of nut butter
    • Triscuits (for spreading nut butter on – better than just plain ol’ bread to me)
    • Bananas
    • Tangerines
    • Tomatoes (I could eat these like apples!)
    • Apples
    • Beef jerky
    • Pre-seasoned tuna pouches
    • 3 ounce chicken cans
    • Cracklin oat bran cereal (or granola is good too!)
    • Animal crackers (okay, not most nutritional, but gotta have a crunchy snack!)
    • Dried fruit (I got mini raisin boxes, mangos, and apricots this go around)
    • Pita bread
    • Avocados
    • 1 gallon water per person per day
  4. A sample menu for you using only shelf stable food:
    • Breakfast:
      • Quest bar + tangerine
      • Pita bread with peanut butter and banana sandwich
      • Cracklin oat bran + 1/4 cup dried fruit
      • All to include Starbucks light double shot of course!
    • Lunch/Dinner:
      • Tuna pouch + sliced tomato + 8 triscuits
      • Pita bread + sliced avocado + canned chicken + 10 animal crackers
      • Peanut butter spread on 8 triscuits + mini raisin box
      • Pita bread with peanut butter and banana sandwich + 1/4 cup trail mix
    • Snack tips:
      • No stress eating! This is a stressful time, but it’s not going to make you feel better. I’ve written lots of posts on this in the past explaining why.
      • Stick to the rule of eating every three hours as much as you can. Your meals are possibly going to be smaller, however, so eat to hunger if necessary. High protein, shelf stable snacks include: nuts, trail mix, beef jerky, canned chicken, and tuna pouches. When the power goes out, cheese sticks and yogurt are great to eat up first. I also recommend hard boiling your eggs beforehand so you have snacks and breakfast items to eat while they are still in the correct temperature zones. Remember, you are probably going to have to throw out these highly perishable items anyway- cook them while you can!
  5. What do you do when the power comes back on?
    • Do not, I repeat, do not rely on odor and appearance to determine if a food is safe to eat. You gotta rely on temperatures. Trust me when I say, a food borne illness in the aftermath of a hurricane is not something you want to be dealing with.
    • Throw anything out that has reached above 40ºF for longer than two hours. Period. Especially meats that started to defrost and any frozen items that no longer have ice crystals.
    • If a food has been determined safe to eat and is perishable, such as eggs, meat, etc – be sure to cook it all the way. No rare steak or sunny side up eggs just to be sure.
    • Lastly, when in doubt, just throw it out. You can always replace the food later. Be safe!

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free online support group here.

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Back to school tips for a healthy family (and your sanity!)

This is a crazy time of year. Lazy days of summer are over and routines are back in full force. I relish the summer because of slow mornings and relaxed evenings without homework. Movie nights any night we want, lunch at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and leisurely mid-week breakfasts are over.

I once read that August is kinda like the Sunday of the year. It represents a new start and recommitment to improving what hasn’t worked in the previous months. Some of you may have children transitioning into middle or high school this year and if you’re like me, you might have a child just entering the school world. Change is here! But that doesn’t mean you have to feel like you’re drowning in after school sports schedules, reading logs, and math homework that you live on pizza and fast food for the next 9 months.

Tips for maintaining sanity and a healthy family during the school year:

  1. Pre-make freezer meals. These can be precooked or not. I’ve done both. If you decide to precook I recommend making enough for at least two meals – one for that evening and one to freeze. It’s much easier to make two at once while you already have the stuff out. Raw meats can be put in large freezer bags with chopped veggies and sauces then frozen for later cooking (baked, pressure or slow cooked.)
  2. Plan ahead. Duh. You’ll have a routine. You’re gonna know when football practice is and when the games are. There’s gonna be late nights that cooking isn’t going to happen. Will those nights be the night you save Monday’s leftovers for? Or the night you decide your family will eat out? It’s okay to eat out 1-2 times a week. It’s not okay to just decide you’re gonna be a fast food family every night during the week.
  3. Plan quick meals. Thirty minute meals sound great. But let’s face it, sometimes that’s too long when it’s late and you’ve got starving kids whining at you. Some of my favorite fifteen minute meals to make include: cheese omelets with fruit and whole wheat toast, deli sandwiches and salad, salad (using pre-made salad bags) with pre-cooked chicken, deli meat, or canned tuna, etc. Nothing wrong with a protein shake or protein bar and yogurt/fruit either. Not all kids will enjoy that last option so I may boil them a hot dog and add raw veggies with ranch if that’s what I go for. Just be flexible! Meals are probably not always going to be your traditional family style meat and two sides.
  4. Establish a bed time and routine. I’ve been guilty in the past about not doing this. You know what happens? There isn’t one and every night turns into a circus, ending with sweat and tears. (I’m not talking about my kids!)  If you don’t want this to happen, decide now when bed time will be and then reverse engineer. That’s will determine what time dinner is going to be. It’s not always going to work out perfectly, but establishing this will make life much easier for you and help you make decisions about what responsibilities and activities you participate later on in the school year.
  5. Take a good multivitamin. Yes, I’m advising your whole family do this. It’s important to fill in the nutritional gaps with a high quality vitamin. This can really help with immunity, focus, and sleep quality. Germs and common childhood illnesses are frequent throughout the school year! Lessen your chances with this simple step. I’d love to tell you if you eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, dairy, and whole grains that you’ll be set. But I’m not that confident in today’s food supply or our ability to consistently eat a perfect diet in today’s busy lifestyle. If you would like recommendations for brands, feel free to contact me. Not all are created equal.
  6. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. And make them convenient to eat. This means they are cut up, washed, and stored in clear containers in the front of the refrigerator. Consider storing apples, oranges, and bananas in a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. Research shows that this really increases the chances they will be consumed by your family first and more often throughout the week. These will make for much healthier after school snacks over the bag of chips in the pantry! We eat what’s convenient.
  7. If you plan to pre-pack lunches, try to make them for 2-3 days ahead of time. Again, when you’ve got the stuff out already, it saves time. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches last up to three days without going soggy. I’ve tested it myself. And be okay with allowing your kids to eat at school some of the time. I learned a while ago that it’s not healthy for me to be up all hours losing sleep in the kitchen trying to pack everyone the perfect lunch.
  8. Grocery shop once a week. Pick a day and time you’re gonna do it consistently. If possible, not a weekend day in the afternoon. This is the busiest and most stressful time and it will take you the longest. Make a list before you go and get it done. No food in the kitchen = no meals made at home. Some grocery stores are now offering curb side pick up. Do your shopping online, they get it together for you, and you just pick it up at the door. Genius! I have a previous post  if you need help with budgeting.
  9. Eat breakfast. As moms, we are pretty good about making sure our children eat a healthy breakfast before rushing off to school. And then we get to work or go on about our day and never get beyond the cup of coffee for ourselves. Don’t do that. Everyone needs breakfast to maintain a healthy weight, perform better, focus throughout the day, and to prevent unhealthy snacking. While you’re making your children breakfast, take the extra two minutes to make yourself one too. If that’s really a no go, consider a meal replacement. I offer insights and suggestions here. Popular kid’s breakfast options include peanut butter on waffles, peanut butter and jelly (I like uncrustables for a fast fix), oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, cereal and milk with strawberries or bananas, cheese omelet with fruit, cinnamon raisin toast and a banana, yogurt and cheerios, hard boiled eggs and toast.
  10. Be flexible. The biggest reason people fail at their health goals is because they get stuck in the mentality that their plans needs to be perfect. As soon as something unexpected happens (a child failed their test, you get asked to volunteer for the halloween party, you get a flat tire on the way to school, etc), they throw in the towel. I call this “Plan A,” perfectionism, which really only happens 5% of the time. Plan B is your reality, so flexibility is key because these things are going to come up, 90% of the time. That’s just life. What’s the other 5%? Plan C….reserved for those days when you’re probably gonna stay home, order a pizza, and call it a day. Luckily they only happen occasionally!

    Most important thing is, you make a plan, allow for flexibility, fall off course sometimes, and consistently get back on track. 

Good luck this year, I wish you a year of success and fun filled memories!

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free online support group here.

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Email: contact@jillianmcmullen.com

Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN

Help! My family won’t agree on the same meal!

So many of us can relate. I know I can.

My husband eats just about anything.

My 7 year old son will, too. But it requires lots of coaxing and positive reinforcement before he will even try it. And still, there are foods he won’t touch. Normal “no touch zone” kid foods – onions, peppers, zucchini, squash, and oddly enough- potatoes (unless they’re french fries.) He loves black olives though, go figure.

Let’s talk about my 4 year old. When he was a baby, he couldn’t get enough. I had to feed him eight ounces of baby food three times a day. He ate it all, pureed turkey included. I was optimistic. Until we introduced table food. You know that saying “they’ll eat when they’re hungry?” It’s not true for this guy. He would rather starve than eat a food that didn’t look right, smell right, or taste right to him. He rarely gets to the “taste right”  stage if it didn’t “smell right.” The kid smells frozen waffles and has the nose of a hound dog on the hunt. I can name about ten foods he will rotate and another ten he likes on occasion.

And for me? Well, I’m not a big meat eater. I’m not fond of leftovers once they’ve been sitting in the freezer for months on end. But other than that, I’ll eat it if I could get the rest of the family to agree. And therein lies the problem. The problem many of you have voiced. In attempts to solve the mystery for myself and to help a fellow momma out, I’ve come up with a few tips (and recipes) to prevent the insanity we all know as dinner.

  1. Set the same time and day to plan your meals for each week. Make it a family meeting. If your husband is like mine and doesn’t care, then at least involve your children. This doesn’t mean you are going to get everyone on the same page for every meal. However, it does mean you are more likely to get everyone on to agree to try each meal. There won’t be any surprises when you set brussel sprouts on the table this Tuesday night because they knew it was coming.
  2. Make easily modified meals rather than two or three separate meals. You probably didn’t have a special meal prepared for you just because you didn’t like what was cooked. I don’t remember ever, not once getting a choice for dinner as a child. If I didn’t want to be hungry, I ate. The only preference that mattered was my dad’s. That’s who my mother cooked for. My parents have been married for 34 years. That tells me something important. For example, we have stir fry meals quite often. My four year old is not going to touch a mixed dish like that. However, he loves rice with butter mixed in. He gets the rice, we get the stir fry on the rice. Same with pasta. He gets butter pasta while the rest of us get a more interesting pasta dish with vegetables and meat sauce. I always offer him the rest on his plate. Why? Because it takes a minimum of seven offerings before you can say your child truly doesn’t like a food item. SEVEN. I can say this with 100% accuracy that it’s been true for my oldest child who now eats cabbage when the first time he literally gagged it down. Remember we are teaching them important rules about nutrition in these early years. I know if my children had a choice, it would be pop-tarts, french fries, and candy all day long.
  3. Opt in for a farm bag co-op. For a low price, you can have farm fresh fruits and vegetables delivered right to your doorstep every week. Usually you do not choose what you get because you truly get whatever is freshly grown in season. I cannot tell you how exciting this is for my children. Often, we get items no one in the family has tried before and it becomes a sweet family experience. Plus, there is something about eating fresh and ripe that just makes fruits and vegetables taste better. Your kids will notice.
  4. Involve them in the cooking process. I know it can be aggravating because they are messy, they do things slower, and you have to take extra steps to make sure they don’t cut a finger off or burn themselves. But if you want your children to eat, let them be a part of the process. The pride they feel in something they created is often enough to get them to at least try it and when they try it, they may go ahead and eat it.
  5. Don’t stress if they’ve tried it, but didn’t eat it. Remember when your parents made you clean your plate? One of the most difficult habits for an overweight adult to break is to not leave food on their plate, regardless of hunger. I assure you, the world hunger problems will still exist regardless if you leave food on your plate. There are organizations you can donate to if you want to make a real difference. We need to be okay with food left on the plate. Children are very good at gaging their hunger and satiety cues, let them do it.

This is hard stuff, I know. But you’ve got enough stress in your life. Dinner shouldn’t be one of them. One day we will all look back on these times as the best in our lives and wonder where it all went. Enjoy your family, their differences and all!

Need more ideas from moms like yourself? Ask to join Jillian’s free online community by clicking here.

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Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LD

 

So you wanna lose 50+ pounds in 2017

Are you overwhelmed already just thinking about it? I don’t doubt it. Our brains are not wired to think in one huge “mountain” like that. There is good reason children’s classes are set up in block scheduling, allowing them to change subjects every hour or so. The human mind simply does not have the capacity to focus on one thing for extended periods of time, even if it is something we love.

New Years resolutions can bring a lot of hope, though. Hope for 12 months of better decisions, financial opportunities, physical improvements, and time investments. And we often imagine 12 months of unrealistic expectations with very little planning involved. For more information on New Years resolution, see my previous post.

But I wanna talk to those of you specifically that want to lose quite a bit of weight and stick to the plan longer than January 12th this go around. Those of you that, this time next year, wanna be relishing in your success while gleefully trying on a new winter ensemble several sizes smaller than what you are wearing right now. The only resolution you have for 2018 is to get out more and maintain your fantastic weight.

So listen up, here are a few tips to start thinking about NOW. Yes, before Christmas and before January 1 rolls around. That is not the time to start deciding you are doing this for realz this time.

  1. Make a plan. What kind of cooking tools do you need? Is your kitchen in working order or have you kept Chic-fil-a in business for the past 6 months? When will you plan your meals? Do you need to find some new recipes? Do you need to join/rejoin weight watchers? Are you going to follow a diet plan or something else? Are you going to hire a dietitian or heath coach? When will you allow for your “trigger foods,” if at all? How/when do you plan to grocery shop? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Do you need a gym membership? Where? Do you need an accountability partner? Who? Do you need a new lunch box? Or just a new lunch spot? How will you reward yourself with non-food related incentives when you’ve hit milestones?
  2. Increase you water intake. Please do this NOW. Most adults are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it because they are just used to the crappy feeling. But it’s not normal to be fatigued, excessively hungry, and/or crave sweets. All of these are signs of dehydration. How much water do you need? Half your body weight (pounds) in ounces. For example, a 200lb person will need to consume 100 ounces of water per day (there are 8 ounces in 1 cup, therefore, roughly 12 cups of water or 6 bottles). Start increasing it now so you aren’t dealing with this when you’re trying to decrease your food intake.
  3. Figure out your goal for weight loss and then break it down into smaller goals so you don’t go fleeing when it’s “go time”. I recommend 5-10 pound increments followed by a non-food reward system to celebrate. There needs to be a prize at the end of each achievement, especially for those first 10-20 pounds when the weight loss may not be all that noticeable (depending on where you’re starting from). And believe it or not, the same will happen for the last 10 pounds or so. Think of it like a new haircut. Everyone notices and showers you with compliments for a few days and then it ends. They get used to it and you don’t hear a word again as your hair continues to slowly grow back out.

If you are interested in learning more about my take on weight loss in the New Year using natural and holistic options, click here to join my FREE online class on December 29th for 48 hours only.

Are you scared to try new foods?

I’m not talking about octopus on crackers, fried crickets, or organs. But I am talking about trying new healthy foods, maybe exotic fruits and vegetables, foods you’ve written off as a child and assumed you don’t like as an adult. And even foods you just made a decision not to like because they are “health foods.”

We can be so “judgy” can’t we? Truth is, our food habits and preferences were formed early in life based on cultural and social factors. Often based upon what part of the world were were raised in, who cooked for us, our socioeconomic status, and whether or not we were forced to clean our plates.

I’ll just use myself as an example. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I learned cooking rice was worth the effort. I had never tried anything other than instant rice growing up and assumed any other way was just too difficult and took too long. Now my eyes have been opened to a whole world of possibilities and varieties!

In this video, I’ve given you some examples of simple, but healthful foods I’ve tried over the past couple of years and why. None of them require a trip to the nearest health food store or an increase in my grocery budget. Just a willingness to try new things.

That’s what my challenge is for you starting today. Take me up on it. Open your palate to possibilities of new tastes and experiences while nourishing your body, even during the holidays. Even if only this one time each day. To begin, just follow my instagram account over at The Oil RD and you will find today’s first food to try. Tag a friend because these things are always so much better with company. Post a picture on your own account with what you’ve come up with that incorporates the food of the day and tag it with the #LikeAnRD hashtag of the day.

See you over on instagram!

Grocery shopping lean on a lean budget

 

I get this question, or shall I say complaint, a lot. “I want to eat healthy, but it’s expensive.” I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be. I hear you. I don’t want to spend my entire budget on groceries, either. But I don’t want to live on junk food. Here are a few tips I’ve learned on how to balance the two practically.

1. Limit impulse purchases. How do you realistically do this? For starters, you don’t go ready to chew your arm off because you haven’t eaten since you first woke up six hours ago. You also go with a thought out list planned arimg_2951ound what’s on sale, the meals you planned to prepare for the week (including breakfasts and lunches), and you plan to have leftovers or double up uses for certain items.

2. Think outside of the grocery chain box. Buy your produce in season. You may invest in a farming co-op. They can be very cost effective and as a bonus, save you a bunch of time in the store if they deliver right to your doorstep! Local farmers markets and stands are also great options to buy seasonal, ripe produce. Meat markets can also be a great way to get way save on fresh meats. Bonus, these places usually only offer what you are looking for, which means no room for impulse purchases at the check out on candy, chips, etc.

3. AVOID couponing. You read that right. I know, I know. But I tried it for a season and I ended up spending more because I often found myself buying things I didn’t need simply because I had a coupon for them. It was also very time consuming not only to look through the papers and magazines, but also in the store while I was shuffling through my coupon files looking through what I had clipped.

4. Buy generic. They are often the same product as name brands, just different packaging.

5. Think simple, whole foods. Does it grow on a tree? Can you picture it in nature? There are no chocolate chip cookies trees. No potato chip farms. The real potatoes are pennies and pack so many more nutrients than their ultra processed counterparts.

6. Plan for three meatless meals a week. Beans, eggs, and high fiber grains like quinoa are vcmp_slideshow_plateery inexpensive ways to include protein in a meal without meat. Better yet, always plan meals around the vegetables and grains and make meat the garnish. It’s cheaper and better for you!

Happy shopping! Would love to know in the comments what you come up with.

P.S. If you’ve been looking for support, you’ve come to the right place, request to join my online support group for all things nutrition and weight loss support.

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email: contact@jillianmcmullen.com

Jillian McMullen, CSOWM, RDN, LDN

 

What does a Dietitian buy at the grocery store to eat?

I get asked this question a lot. And I will admit, it’s an annoying one. But I decided to go a head and answer it, because people wanna know. So here it is.

Let’s begin with some basic staples:

  • REAL butter. No fake stuff like margarine (what IS that stuff, anyway? ewww)
  • 1% milk. Only one person in my family drinks it. That is my 3 year old who would prefer to live on it if I let him. (I’m working on it and I never claimed to be a pediatric Dietitian, mmmmk?)
  • Boneless, skinless chicken strips because they are easy to cook with and versatile
  • 3lbs 85% lean ground turkey because it is versatile and cheaper to buy in that quantity (ground turkey breast is dry and flavorless)
  • Vanilla soy milk. Because I would flavor my coffee with more sugar than coffee if I used anything else. (no, I don’t use the unsweetened kind for my coffee, yuck. Just yuck.)
  • Extra Virgin Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil for cooking (new love, doesn’t break down like olive oil does when cooked)
  • Shredded cheese. Because it’s versatile and everything is better with cheese.
  • Sliced cheese. See above.
  • Stick cheese. See above, insert at snack time.
  • Nitrite and Nitrate free deli meat. For lunches. Emphasize the nitrate free versions. Unless you prefer to knowingly up your risk of cancer.
  • Nitrite and Nitrate free bacon.
  • Fruit snacks. See the comment about pediatric dietitian. mmmk?
  • Protein bars with <10g sugar and >10g protein for those moments when you need to eat but the threenager decided to draw on the walls with your expensive mascara and the first grader decided to fake an illness before school (true story.)
  • Eggs. Great nutritional value for any meal of the day.
  • Lollipops. Because sometimes bribery is necessary when you’re a momtreprenuer with a threenager who stays at home.
  • Plastic ware, paper plates, paper bowls. Because life is too short to be doing dishes.
  • Wine. See above.

What you DON’T see and why.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables because we have a weekly farm bag delivered straight to our doorstep. Cheaper, fresher alternative and I highly recommend it!
  • 5 sets of BOGO pasta. I’m still using up what I bought when I was suckered in last time. Lesson learned. Insert other items as they apply to you.People who stock up at discount stores eat up to 48 percent more.
  • Me going through any bulk food store. Buying in bulk = eating in  bulk. It’s a proven fact people eat more when they buy larger quantities.
  • 100 calorie pack snacks. They have zero nutritional value and I’d rather eat a real cookie.
  • A cake, pie, etc unless there is  a REASON for it (i.e. birthday, holiday).
  • Majority of the cooking spices because I prefer to cook with high quality essential oils (contact me directly if you want more information on that)
  • Gluten free products. Because no one in my household has celiac disease or known gluten intolerance. End of story.

This is not an all-inclusive list. In fact it’s a very basic list that doesn’t include what mood I’m in or budget I’m trying to follow that week. But hopefully you get the point. I shop like many other people, moms, and fellow dietitian friends.