Navigating the nutrition info highway

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Looking for some good food jokes? Try the KidZone page at asfsa.org, sponsored by the American School Food Service Association. Need a lesson plan and ”ready to print” activity sheets on the food pyramid and good food choices? Visit nutritionexplorations.org, the site of the National Dairy Council. Looking for ways to reduce the fat in your favorite fettuccine Alfredo recipe? Click on cyberdiet.com and go to ”recipe recreations.” Not only will you get a recipe, but you’ll find a ”before” and ”after” calorie and nutrient analysis as well.

An enormous amount of nutrition information is on the Web, but it can be hard to find. The Center on Nutrition Communications at the Tufts School of Nutrition Science and Policy provides a way to navigate it all. It’s called Nutrition Navigator, at navigator.tufts.edu, a ”rating guide to nutrition Web sites.” Ask dieticians for their favorite Web site and most point to this as the very first place to visit. Tufts nutritionists review and rate Web sites for accuracy, depth of information, and usability, among other categories. Each Web site that is reviewed on the 25-point scale (25 being the best) gets an overall rating and information on target audience, sponsor, and commentary.

Hundreds of sites are reviewed under headings including Family, Special Dietary Needs, Hot Topics, and Women. It is not overwhelming. Each site mentioned has a short summary, then a single page with the site’s Web address, rating, and more about the content. Still interested? Click and you’re there.

Most sites have a variety of options once you get there. Parents looking for recipes for children are also likely to find activities they can do online with their children, such as game show-style quizzes, puzzles, and nutrition information.

Many nutrition sites are sponsored or co-sponsored by commercial firms or business associations. For instance, healthychoices.org, aimed at teachers and day-care providers, is sponsored by the Growers of Washington State Apples and Tree Top, a fruit processing company. The site promotes healthy eating throughout the food pyramid and has lessons and coloring sheets to download for preschoolers, though all the recipes use some form of apple.

Even the Tufts Navigator site is sponsored by Kraft Foods. Some groups’ agendas are more obvious than others. The Vegetarian Resource Group, vrg.org, rated a 24 (among the best) by Tufts, has as one of its titles ”Afraid of Mad Cow Disease?” It directs you toward alternatives to meat products, such as veggie burgers. The site has informative articles, tips on feeding a vegetarian child, and loads of recipes.

The National Dairy Council Web site, nutritionexplorations.org (rated 22, among the best), originally was designed to support the many Dairy Council programs that are already in the schools. For teachers, lesson plans and activities are ready to download. The site also includes information for food service professionals and parents, a Nutrition Bookshelf, and a colorful place called the familyfoodzone.com with a funky interactive refrigerator, games, and recipes. The primary message is about the importance of calcium in one’s diet through dairy products but as part of a well-balanced diet from the five food groups.

Cyberdiet.com, with a high rating of 24, promotes health and fitness, and features articles, on-line diet support, and a variety of topics. Colorful, easy to follow, reasonable advice and a free weight assessment tool make this site user-friendly.

All these sites have links galore to other sites. You can spend time going from one place to another and end up in Ireland, at the Healthy Food magazine sponsored by the Department of Health in Dublin: indigo.ie/~indicom/crunch.htm. The recipes might be in grams and the Irish spell yoghurt with an ”h,” but the information is useful.

The site dole5aday.com, with a rating of 21, has activities and tips for parents to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables.

”Hey Mikey, what did the banana do when it heard the ice scream? It split!” There’s plenty more where that came from at asfsa.org/kidzone/jokes.asp.

Black Bean and Mango Salsa
(Adapted from nutritionforkids.com)

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (7 ounces) yellow corn
1 medium mango, peeled and diced
1/2 red pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup Spanish onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil.

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and chill. Serve with baked tortilla chips.

To make a burrito: Place 1/2 cup of black bean salsa on a tortilla. Sprinkle on some grated Monterey Jack cheese, fold the burrito in half, and grill in frying pan for 2 minutes on each side.

Raisin Buddy Banana Muffins
(Reprinted with permission from dole5aday.com)

2 ripe, medium bananas
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup raisins

1. Lightly grease muffin tins. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mash bananas until smooth. Add eggs and oil.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Add banana mixture and stir until moistened. Stir in raisins.
4. To make mini muffins, spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into each mini-muffin pan cup. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool muffins before popping out. For regular muffins, spoon 1/3 cup batter into 10 or 12 prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Hot Legs
(Adapted from the Munch’n Crunch @ Lunch site indigo.ie/~indicom/hotleg.htm)

Serves 6

8 carrots, peeled and sliced into strips
12 chicken drumsticks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 can (16 ounces) chopped tomatoes and juice
2 heaping teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons ketchup
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. In a 9-by-13-inch casserole, spread the carrots along the bottom.
2. Wash and dry drumsticks and sprinkle on salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In a frying pan, brown the drumsticks in the oil for 3 minutes each side. Place them on top of the carrots.
3. In the same frying pan, saute the onions. Mix the cornstarch and water. Add the chopped tomatoes and cornstarch mixture to the onions. Heat until bubbly. Add the chili powder and ketchup. Mix well until thickened.
4. Pour the sauce over the drumsticks. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.
5. Remove the foil and cook another 10 minutes.
6. If you wish, serve with a dollop of plain yogurt over each serving. Rice makes a good accompaniment.

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