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Questions and Answers

Breakfast and weight loss

Dear Dietitian,
I have been trying for several months to lose weight. To decrease my calories, I’ve been skipping breakfast every day, but this doesn’t seem to be working. What can I do? More

Dear Reader,
Believe it or not, skipping meals is actually one of the worst things you can do when trying to lose weight. In fact, a recent study from Harvard Medical School showed that men and women who skip breakfast are actually more likely to become obese than those who eat breakfast regularly.

One of the reasons for this is that when you skip a meal, you tend to be more hungry and thus overeat at the next meal. Even though you “skipped” calories in the morning, you may wind up eating more calories than you would have normally eaten through snacks and other meals.

Ideally, breakfast should contain some carbohydrates and protein to give you energy and sustain you throughout the morning. If time is a concern in the mornings, try these quick breakfast options:

  • Whole-grain cereal with fruit and milk
  • Whole-grain cereal with a cup of yogurt and a banana
  • Whole-grain bagel with 2 tablespoons peanut butter and apple slices
  • Frozen whole-grain waffles topped with 2 tablespoons peanut butter and raisins
  • Instant oatmeal with milk and dried fruit
  • Whole-wheat pita stuffed with sliced hard-cooked eggs

Breakfast is also a great time to start working on getting enough fruits and vegetables during the day, so go ahead and add a serving of fruit. If your taste buds just don’t crave traditional “breakfast foods”, enjoy a sandwich made with whole-grain bread, leftover pizza with reduced-fat cheese, or even leftovers in the morning.

Make sure to start your day the healthy way—with breakfast!

Decreasing sodium

Dear Dietitian,
My doctor told me to decrease my salt intake. How can I do this and still have foods with flavor? More

Dear Reader,

Since a diet that is high in salt is linked to high blood pressure, you’re smart to choose foods with less salt. For most people, the problem is that they have learned throughout their lifetime to like salty foods. The good news is you can retrain your taste buds to enjoy less salt!

First of all, always taste foods before adding salt at the table. Many people routinely salt everything, and this can really add a lot of sodium to your diet!

If your food still needs a flavor lift, try these tips:

  • Pep your foods up with pepper—black pepper, red pepper, chili pepper, etc. These come in different degrees of “hot,” so choose one to suit your tastes!
  • Add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar. Herbed, balsamic, wine and rice vinegars each give a slightly different flavor spark.
  • Shake on a salt-free herbal blend, or make your own salt-free herb or spice combinations.

Here are some ideas for spice blends to add flavor without adding salt. Mix the ingredients and keep in an airtight container. Use your own ideas, and be creative!

Asian 5-spice blend (for chicken, fish, pork)
¼ cup ground ginger + 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon + 2 teaspoons ground cloves + 1 teaspoon each of round allspice and anise seed

Greek blend (for chicken, fish, vegetables)
2 tablespoons crushed fennel seeds + 1 tablespoon freeze-dried chives + 2 teaspoons dry mustard + ¼ teaspoon garlic powder + 1 teaspoon salt-free lemon pepper

Southwestern blend (for chicken, beef, pork, chili, enchiladas, etc.)
¼ cup chili powder + 1 tablespoon each of ground cumin and onion powder + 1 teaspoon each of oregano, garlic powder, and red pepper + ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Spicy Low-Country blend (for chicken, beef, pork)
2 tablespoons paprika + 2 teaspoons garlic powder + ½ teaspoon dried thyme + 1 teaspoon ground red pepper + ¾ teaspoon dried oregano + ¼ teaspoon ground nutmet

Zesty Herb blend (for salads, vegetables, fish, chicken)
¼ cup dried parsley + 2 tablespoons dried tarragon + 1 tablespoon each of dried oregano and dill weed + 1 teaspoon dried basil

Holiday leftovers

Dear Dietitian,
I always cook huge meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which always leaves us with plenty of leftovers. Are they safe to eat the second time around? More

Dear Reader,
Nothing ruins a holiday like foodborne illness (“food poisoning”). Whether it’s the holiday season or not, food safety is always a good idea.

Leftovers are perfectly safe as long as they have been handled properly. For starters, make sure that you are following proper food safety techniques when you prepare the food. This includes washing your hands between tasks, keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot, avoiding cross-contamination in the kitchen, and cooking all foods to the proper internal temperatures.

Next, make sure that all food is either eaten or properly stored within two hours of cooking the food. When food is left out on the table all day, bacteria grow and thrive, and this can cause sickness for you and your family.

Here are some tips to properly store leftovers:

  • All leftovers should be properly stored within 2 hours after cooking.
  • Store leftovers in shallow containers (2 inches deep or less).
  • Remove turkey from the bone and store it separately from the stuffing and gravy.
  • Slice breast meat; legs and wings may be left whole.
  • Eat turkey within 3 to 4 days.
  • Eat stuffing and gravy within 1 to 2 days.

Finally, when you get ready to eat the leftovers, be sure to reheat them to at least 165o F. Use a food thermometer to be sure of the temperature.

Here are some additional web resources for food safety information:

If your question relates to the safety of meat or poultry, call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.

Keep your family safe from foodborne illness!