Shoot to Grill: Food Safety Tips for a Labor Day BBQ

Here are some basic food safety tips that can help keep you healthy, and not sick.

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Summer is almost over, which means it’s just about time for me to go back to school and get more educated.  Today is a good day to fire up your grill (or “barbecue,” as some call it, despite the fact that it is NOT a barbecue).

  1. Wash your hands:  This is a basic food safety tip.  Who knows what kinds of germs, debris particles, or other nasty stuff are hiding on your hands?  Well, preparing foods without washing your hands can get this into whatever you are making.
  2. Keep raw meat away from fresh produce:  When preparing a dish that has raw meat and fresh vegetables, it is important to keep them separate to prevent cross contamination.  My recommendation is to use two cutting boards with two knives:  one for the meat, and one for the vegetables.  Wash your hands before switching between the two just to be sure that you aren’t spreading bacteria.
  3. Test the temperature of meats and/or meat substitute before serving:  As we know, germs like to grow on pretty much anything.  As such, it’s important to make sure that everything is cooked to a safe temperature before serving (after all, I doubt that you or anyone you are serving food to want to get a foodborne illness).  To check the temperature, you need to use a calibrated thermometer.  Simply remove the food from the grill, and stick the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat.  Generally, if the food is above 165 degrees Fahrenheit or 80 degrees Celsius you should be fine.  Here’s an image I found from Healthy Canadians that highlight this:
    Image result for safe food temperatures celsius
  4. Be mindful of the Danger Zone:  No, you are not Kenny Loggins.  You don’t want to go to the Danger Zone.  This is a range of temperatures that allow bacteria to grow, which again, can make you sick.  Because for some reason the USDA does not like adding Celsius temperatures on their infographics, I’ll post two pictures.  One is from the USDA, the other from Australia’s Food Safety Information Counsil:
    Image result for danger zone foodImage result for danger zone food safety uk

I know a lot of what I covered today pertains to American audiences more than international people.  However, these tips still pertain to basic food safety, regardless of the day.

Got any questions or comments?  Feel free to leave one below.

Valentine’s Day: The Heart You SHOULD Care About

I use the holiday to discuss heart health.

Oh yeah, my calendar indicates that it is the 14th of February.  Meaning that today is the day of love or some other bullshit that the corporations came up with to get you to buy cheap candies, cookies, wine, etc.  Because we cannot clearly show love without spending a shit-ton of money on frivolous crap, I say cynically.

Valentine’s day is closely associated with the heart shape.  But I don’t give a damn about that heart.  The hearts I care about are more internal.  And on the left side of the body.  I’m talking about that blood-pumping motherfucker.

The American Heart Association has a set of recommendations to take care of the four-chambered beast contained inside of your flesh prison.  They are:

  • Eat enough Calories, but not too much
  • Be sure to exercise for at least 150 minutes a week at moderate intensity
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins (like low-fat dairy, skinless poultry, fish, beans, tofu, and legumes), and nuts
  • Limit saturated-fats, trans-fats, sodium, red meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Be sure the foods you eat are high in nutrients
  • Moderate alcohol consumption, for those of legal age. None if you are underage

The guidelines set up by the AHA are a good rule of thumb for anyone to follow.  The diet they suggest has benefits for everyone.  The older population can minimize the damage a longer life has caused, and younger populations can help prevent the damage to the heart and vessels.

Some of these foods increase blood pressure, meaning your heart must work harder.  This can lead to several problems in the future, involving issues with the vessels in the kidney and the brain.
For any of you out there who are sad I rained on your plans to drink a bunch of wine with your significant other, don’t be.  If you care about your heart (and your liver, and brain, etc.) perhaps you would rethink your plans for romance?  Or not, it is your choice after all!

So what did you guys think?  Did you have to rethink your Valentine’s Day plans after reading my post?  Feel free to leave a reply below!

Resolution: How to Effectively Set Goals for the Next Year

A health major explains a method to better set goals.

Sometimes these puns come easy, such as talking about new year’s resolutions, and listening to “Resolution” by Emigrate.  Almost like it was meant to be.

Anyway, according to Statistics Brain, the top resolution for 2015 was weight loss oriented.  However, only 8% are successful in attaining the resolution, and 24% never succeed and fail their goals.  Why is this?  I think a lot of people simply do not know how to set goals.  “I resolve to lose weight, what is this Nutrition Punk talking about?  I just made a goal, this asshole does not know what he is talking about,” some might be thinking upon reading my statement.  But that is not an effective goal.  To set an effective one, you need to be SMART.  Fortunately for you, getting smart does not require several thousand dollars being spent on a degree.  SMART is simply an acronym for setting an effective goal.

Specific: This essentially means that your goal has direction.  “Eating healthy” is not specific, since there is no real direction set.  How do you plan on eating healthy?  If you can ask that question, then the answer is the specific part.  “Losing weight” is more specific, since it does have direction to it.

Measurable:  This is how you track progress.  For the goal of “losing weight,” this is easy to measure by using a bathroom scale.  “Eating healthy” can be modified to “Increasing produce consumption,” which is measurable by a number of cups consumed.

Action-Oriented:  This is how your goal “moves.”  The question to ask here is “am I doing anything to make a change?”  If the goal is to lose weight, then how are you?  This can be increasing exercise by going to the gym, or reducing Calories consumed.  This is the part of the goal that should require a change in some way.

Realistic:  Goals should actually be attainable, and not some “pipe dream.”  Continuing with the weight loss theme, the goal should be done in a healthy manner, so the goal of losing “10 pounds a day” is not realistic, since that requires a great deal of metabolic changes that would result in negative health effects.

Time-Oriented:  Good goals have an “end point.”  This gives a chance to evaluate and make changes as needed.  That way, if something is not working, you can change it to make it work.  Usually smaller goals set leading to a larger goal is ideal.

So, why don’t I make an example resolution following the SMART method.  Were I to attempt to lose weight (despite the fact I am fucking skinny), my goal look like this: “I resolve to lose two pounds a week by reducing the amount of junk food I eat until the end of February, then I will evaluate to see if I met my goal.”  It is specific because I have direction for losing weight, measurable because I can use a scale to see my weight change, action-oriented because I am purposely changing my diet to be healthier, realistic because this is a satisfactory amount of weight to lose in a healthy way, and has an end-point to see the effectiveness of the goal setting.

Hopefully this helps out some of you!  Feel free to share what your resolutions in the comments if you feel like it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

College student explains the Thanksgiving sleepiness.

Here’s wishing my  readers that celebrate it a happy thanksgiving.  I know I for one am thankful for the break; these past few weeks have been punching my dick into oblivion with all the classwork.  For everyone else readers, well, happy Thursday to you.

One thing people believe about their upcoming meal of turkey and all the other foods out there is that the turkey meat knocks you into a coma.  It makes sense.  When do a lot of people eat turkey meat?  Thanksgiving.  But, what if I was to say that this thought process is wrong, and it seems to be more the meat is at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The theory on the Post-Thanksgiving Meal Coma is that turkey is high in the amino acid, L-Tryptophan.  Tryptophan (in biochemical terms, the “L” simply means if it is facing one way or another) is a precursor to serotonin and melanin.  Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps regulate things like appetite, sleeping, and mood.  Melanin is the neurotransmitter responsible for sleep cycle regulation.  So here is where the misconception is.  Everyone knows turkey is high in tryptophan, which means that eating it causes your body to produce more sleepy-time chemicals.  Case solved, let’s go get hella wasted.  But not so fast, Capt. Drunko, there is more to this case than association.

Foods high in tryptophan include red meat and cheese.  Basically foods that are in almost every single meal in America.  Which is odd, because by that logic, people who eat a cheeseburger should be passing out once they eat their meal.  Huh, interesting.  So after all that biochemical bullshit using words I learned in my biochemistry class, that was NOT the reason why people get sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner?

Well, there is actually a very simple reason that might have been overlooked.  We really need to get to the heart of this.  Or actually, more like the cardiac sphincter.  As in the stomach.  You see, digestion requires energy.  The stomach and intestines actually have muscles that need blood.  When you consume a lot of food, there is a lot of blood needed in this area, and not in others, like your skeletal muscles.  What is a good way to make sure more blood goes to the gut, and not anywhere else?  Immobilize the person.  So essentially, the reason you get tired is because you ate too much.  Kinda interesting to think about, right?

This is Halloween: The Scariest Thing About Today

In the midst of current events, what is one thing a nutrition student thinks is “scary?”

Happy Halloween everyone!  Hopefully everyone has a safe holiday, whether you are Trick-or-Treating, or going to another drinking party, or even staying home watching horror movies or playing horror games.  Or even not celebrating Halloween, that’s fine too, I guess.

In life there are many fears.  There’s the fear of things like climate change, the upcoming United States election, failing college courses and having to retake them etc.  Well, one thing you should really fear is the Halloween candy.

An article posted on Harvard’s blog page highlighted a study they conducted, and it showed that those who consumed larger amounts (25% or more of daily Calories) of added sugar were twice as likely to die of heart disease than those who ate a lower amount of added sugar in their diet.

Sugar is also “empty” Calories, meaning that foods with higher amounts of added sugar (think candy or soda) often contain very little nutrients, like vitamins and minerals.  Diets with larger amounts of Calories than your body can burn can often lead to obesity, which the American Heart Association cites as a risk factor for heart disease.

Added sugars also increase the risk for dental carries, aka cavities.  The presence of sugar gives the bacteria naturally in your mouth something to “eat,” which causes them to release acids that break down tooth enamel.  Once the tooth decays into the deeper parts of the tooth, it can be very painful.

Now, I am not saying it is bad to celebrate and to eat Halloween candy.  It is a celebration, after all.  Plus, candy does taste good.  What I am saying is to keep it in moderation.  Plus, there are better things to worry about, like the upcoming US election, climate change, grades in college classes etc. than getting heart disease later in life.

So what do you guys think?  Anyone with experience dealing with heart disease patients, or coming up with dietary plans reducing added sugar for health reasons not listed (like diabetes)?