Nutrition Education | 4 Ways to Say ‘Goodbye’ to Salt

May 31, 2018

Salt has been used to preserve food for centuries. It is also used often to provide flavor. Over time, however, medical professionals have discovered that eating too much salt can be harmful to our health – leading to maladies like high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.

While the daily sodium recommendation for healthy adults is 2,300 mg (or about 1 teaspoon), the average amount of sodium consumed by adults per day is 3,400 mg. So where does all of this salt come from?

Foods that are processed, packaged, or prepared in restaurants tend to contain high amounts of salt. Pizza, fast food, frozen meals, and deli meats are some of the saltiest foods we eat. In fact, foods that may not even taste salty — such as breads and pastries — are often high in sodium.

To help reduce sodium in your diet, here are a four tips:

  • Check The Label
    Use the nutrition facts label, found on the back of packaged products, to help select items that are low in sodium. Foods with 5% or less of the Daily Value of sodium per serving are considered low sodium. Choose products that are labeled “low-sodium”, “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” as another way to reduce your salt intake.
  • Cook It Yourself
    Although it may require more time and effort, cooking at home with fresh food allows you to control how much salt is added. If you cook a frozen or packaged meal, add vegetables such as steamed carrots or broccoli for a boost of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Drain and Rinse Canned Foods
    Since salt is used as a preservative, canned items like vegetables, beans, and tuna tend to be high in sodium. When cooking with canned foods, always drain out the excess fluid and rinse with water.
  • Skip the Salt Altogether
    Use herbs and spices for flavor instead of adding salt. Spices like cumin, ginger, rosemary, cilantro, garlic or onion powder can be used to jazz up any meal.

The Nutrition Education team at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank shares these tips during our classes in the community. At our Food Pharmacies, we share low-sodium recipes with participants who are being treated for high blood pressure and diabetes.

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Nutrition Education: 5 Tips to stay food safe this holiday season

November 23, 2017

As the Food Bank continues to serve thousands of our neighbors in need this holiday season, we know that food is a big part of any celebration.  It not only nourishes the body, but the soul, and helps to bring people together. With that in mind, it is important to make sure the meals you prepare are safe. For that, we checked in with our Nutrition Education team for their top 5 tips to stay food safe year round.

1. Wash hands and surfaces often with soap and warm water. Harmful bacteria can easily spread when hands and surfaces are not clean.

2. Use separate cutting boards for meat.  If possible, keep cutting boards that you use for fruits and vegetables separate from those you use for meats, poultry and seafood. If raw meat juices come in contact with raw produce, harmful bacteria can make us sick. Keeping our cutting boards separate reduces that risk.

3. Thaw meat on the bottom shelf. When defrosting animal proteins for the holidays, place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags and place them on the bottom shelf of your fridge to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods.

4. Avoid the Temperature Danger Zone (TDZ) by keeping cold foods at 41°F or below and hot foods 135°F or above.

5. Cool first, then refrigerate. Store leftovers in fridge-safe containers once food has cooled. Avoid placing hot leftovers directly in the fridge before cooling. Hot food can raise the temperature of your fridge and other foods insider, inviting the growth of pathogens on surrounding foods.

Bonus Tip
6. Enjoy the holidays in the company of your loved ones including family, friends, neighbors, and even pets!

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Nutrition Education | Back-to-School Lunch Tips

September 6, 2017

Healthy, Safe Back to School Lunch Ideas

Back to school is an exciting time – so many new things to learn, new friends to meet, and reconnections with old friends. It also means busy mornings! Here are tips from our Nutrition Education team for packing delicious, nutritious school lunches and ensuring they’re safe to eat at lunchtime, a few hours after the food leaves your kitchen.

Food Storage and Safety

While going back to school and food safety aren’t always linked in our minds, we should pay attention while packing family lunches. Bacteria grow most rapidly when food isn’t kept at its proper temperature. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep cold food cold – If lunch contains perishable food items like meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to keep it cold using frozen water bottles or freezer packs.
  • Keep hot food hot – If lunch includes something like soup, chili, or stew, use an insulated container like a Thermos to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. It should stay hot until lunchtime.
  • Storing lunches overnight – You can save time in the morning by prepping a loved one’s lunch the night before, but be mindful of food safety! Keep lunches in the refrigerator to keep them safe.
  • Clean containers daily – Each night, clean lunch containers thoroughly with warm, soapy water or a disinfectant wipe.

Healthy, Portable Recipes

If you need inspiration to create tasty, portable lunches, look no further! Remember that ideally, lunches should include at least three of the five food groups – veggies, fruits, protein, grains and dairy. By incorporating multiple food groups into lunch, you’re making sure your loved ones get the nutrients they need to power through their day.

Some recipes we recommend:

Nutrition Education | Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies

April 28, 2017

The day you find out you or your partner is pregnant is one of the true joys in life. It can also be a time of great stress, especially for first-time moms.   There are new health and nutrition issues to think about, not to mention big changes to your body and your lifestyle.

Fortunately, the Food Bank is here to help!  This year our Nutrition Education Team launched its first-ever Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies Program.  It’s aimed at helping new mothers and their children be healthy and well nourished.  We are pleased to share the important nutrition tips that they are teaching moms.

When assembling a menu, pregnant women should look for “The Mighty Four”:

  1. Protein: found in lean meats, poultry and eggs, beans, seeds, nuts and nut butters, and tofu. Protein gives moms and babies the power to grow muscles and tissue, essential parts of a baby’s development
  2. Calcium: found in dairy, dark leafy greens, fish, and fortified cereals and beverages. Calcium keeps teeth and bones strong. If mothers do not get enough calcium during pregnancy, the developing baby uses calcium from the mother, making her bones weaker, which can lead to osteoporosis.
  3. Iron: found in dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, beans, and lean red meats. Iron helps create red blood cells, which are essential during pregnancy due to increased blood volume.
  4. Folic Acid: found in beans and legumes, dark greens, citrus, and nuts. Folic Acid is important for neural tube development, which later becomes the baby’s spinal cord.

“Good nutrition is essential during pregnancy, especially in the very first months,” said Nalleli Martinez, Senior Nutrition Education Coordinator for the Food Bank.  “Our hope is to provide tips and resources that will help moms and caregivers more easily make healthy food choices during and after pregnancy.”

Want nutrition tips for the whole family (whether you are expecting or not)? Sign up for our monthly newsletter here.

Food Banker Spotlight | Nalleli Martinez-Prieto

April 19, 2017

Meet Nalleli Martinez-Prieto, Senior Nutrition Education Coordinator

What does a typical day at the Food Bank look like for you?

When asked this question, I can honestly say there is no “typical day” within Nutrition Education. Our work encompasses such a wide array of programming. One day I can be updating signs with nutrition tips on our shop floor in San Francisco, the next I might be in Marin leading a class about whole grains for seniors, and the following day I’m at a San Francisco school leading a kid’s class about “eating the rainbow.” However, I can say that a typical day always includes some form of communication, not only with the community, but in the community, and that to me is gold!

What’s your favorite thing about working at the Food Bank?

Being constantly present in the community. I’ve never been a fan of sitting behind a desk, so frequently engaging in two-way learning with community members is what I appreciate the most. I like having the opportunity to create empowering environments for our class participants to help them elevate the skills they already have. When I get to witness their success in trying a new food or preparing a new meal, I know I’ve succeeded.

Have you been personally impacted by your experience at the Food Bank?

I grew up in a food desert and never really knew it. My neighborhood was surrounded by every fast food option you can think of and only one grocery store within walking distance from home. My mom didn’t drive back then and getting fresh food was always a mission. Back then, I never considered what a food bank could do for us, but now that I know, I’m an advocate for the work that we do. The Food Bank is a bridge that gives people the opportunity to struggle less. My family had limited access to healthy food and little to no knowledge of what “healthy” was, and so I now strive to  share with others the valuable resources that are available that I wish my family knew about. The Food Bank has shown me how to be a passionate advocate for the work that I do, and it’s one of the reasons that I enjoy serving the community.

What motivates you to do what you do?

The small successes experienced every day by our class participants and agency partners motivate me. Nutrition is such a personal topic, which is so important for me to acknowledge every time I step out into the community. For example, in a previous class, I had a participant share that she used to drink three sodas a day and she accomplished the goal of reducing that to one. Change looks very different for each individual, and when I can encourage that change, it motivates me to continue doing what I do.

What’s something people might not know about you?

I know that some people already know this about me, but I’m a gamer.  It’s a big part of my self-care. I make sure to set some time aside each year to attend gaming expos. I love the nature of immersive storytelling that can be experienced via gaming and if you’re ever interested in chatting about it, come find me!

Tell us your best joke.

I’m not a fan of jokes, but can I share my favorite quote? “May you live every day of your life.” — Jonathan Swift