Mission: Nutrition Providing the most up-to-date information on health and nutrition is my mission! Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/rss.xml What Does it Mean to Eat Lean? https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_12325/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 11:45:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_12325/ The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming a healthy meal pattern with a variety of vegetables, fruits (especially whole fruits), grains (half being whole grains), low fat or fat free dairy, oils, and a variety of protein including seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy products, and lean meats. What are "lean" meats? The word lean is often used when referring to healthy eating, but how is lean defined?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Food Labeling Guide:

Seafood, game meat, poultry, red meat, meals, and main dishes labeled "LEAN" contain less than:

10 grams total fat

4.5 grams or less saturated fat

95 milligrams of cholesterol

Each serving must be per reference amount customarily consumed and per 100 grams. For meals and main dishes, the food must meet the criteria per 100 grams and per labeled serving.

Seafood, game meats, red meat, poultry, meals and main dishes labeled "EXTRA LEAN" contain less than:

5 grams total fat

2 grams saturated fat

95 milligrams cholesterol

Extra lean meat follows the same serving reference as the lean meat above.

Power of Protein

Just like carbohydrates, water, and fats, the body needs protein to function. All cells contain protein. Protein is needed for not only muscle functionality, but also blood clotting, keeping fluids balanced in the body, cell repair, and hormone and enzyme production. Protein from animal sources are complete or high quality protein since they contain all nine essential amino acids. Protein from animals also are a rich source of iron, B vitamins, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.

The USDA recommends 5.5 ounces of protein per day following a 2,000-calorie diet. Three ounces of protein is roughly the size of a deck of cards. Additionally, the Institute of Medicine suggest a minimum of 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight.

Why Choose Lean Meat?

Choosing 95% lean cooked ground beef or skinless chicken breast over 75% ground beef, or bacon cuts down on the naturally present saturated fat and cholesterol. A diet high in saturated fat is linked with an increased risk of heart disease, the number one killer among Americans. Saturated fat also increases risks of obesity, inflammatory arthritis, chronic pain, diabetes, and some cancers. The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of total daily calories.

Tips for Finding the Leaner Meat

  • Select beef with the USDA label "Select" or "Choice" over "Prime"
  • Cuts of meat with the terms "loin" or "round" in their name typically contain less saturated fat
  • Pick poultry with the USDA grade of A or B
  • Trim off visible fat and skin from chicken and turkey before preparing
  • Avoid regularly purchasing deli meats such as salami, bologna, hot dogs, bacon, fatty cuts of beef, pork, or lamb or options with a high amount of marbling.

To help tenderize lean meat, try preparing meat in a marinade with herbs, spices, oils, and an acid. Prepare lean meats using low-fat cooking methods such as grilling, roasting, baking, and broiling. When trying to find the "leaner" or more heart healthy options, try having a "meatless" day of the week. Consume other sources of protein such as beans, peas, eggs, or nuts. Have a great National Nutrition Month putting your best fork forward and don't forget to eat lean!

All Purpose Marinade

½ cup olive oil

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

2 Tbs. minced garlic

2 Tbs. powdered mustard

2 Tbs. ground ginger

¼ cup brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Marinate for 24 hours, on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Excellent on tough cuts of beef, pork, chicken, or as a vegetable marinade.

Nutrition Facts: Calories 20, Fat 1.5g, Sodium 70mg, Carbs 1g, Fiber 0g

What is Hominy? https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_12227/ Wed, 01 Feb 2017 14:24:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_12227/ When strolling through the canned foods aisle there is a selection of peas, green beans, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, corn, and white and golden hominy. Wait. Hominy? What is hominy? Looking at the picture on the can, hominy looks like little teeth. So what is hominy? Appropriately located next to the corn, hominy is field corn (maize) that has been dried and soaked in an alkaline solution of lime, lye or ash wood. Soaking corn in an alkaline solution is known as nixtamalization. Hominy is typically double or triple the size of corn because of the nixtamalization process, which loosens the hull of the corn and softens it. Creating and processing hominy has been around since 1500 B.C. and popular in Native American, Mexican, and Central American cuisine. The main ingredient in pozole, a hearty traditional Mexican stew, is hominy. Hominy is sometimes found in the specialty or ethnic food aisle of the grocery store. Ground hominy, also known as grits, is a porridge consumed as a breakfast staple. Ground hominy is also commonly used to make masa. Masa, a Spanish term meaning dough, is used to make tortillas, tamales, and corn chips.

Health and Hominy

Hominy is a type of corn and considered both a vegetable and a grain. Half a cup of hominy is considered a serving of vegetables. According to the Whole Grain Council as long as the bran loss due to the nixtamalization process is minimum, hominy is still considered a whole grain. The nixtamalization process also makes B vitamins, specifically niacin, and amino acids more bio-available. Hominy is nutritionally similar to canned whole kernel corn. Hominy has 58 calories, 1 gram protein and fat, and 2 grams of fiber per ½ cup. If high blood pressure is a health concern, look for the low sodium canned options when possible or purchase dry hominy.

How to Eat Hominy

Canned yellow (golden) or white hominy has already been soaked, cooked and ready to use, but dried hominy requires hours of soaking and simmering. Hominy is a great addition to soups, stews, breads, chili, casseroles, dip or salad, such as the spicy hominy salad below. Store canned hominy in a cool, dark place. Once opened store hominy in the refrigerator in a sealed, non-metal container.

Spicy Hominy Salad

Makes 8 Servings

1 (15 oz.) can white hominy, rinsed and drained

2 large yellow bell peppers, roasted

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1-10 oz. can tomatoes with green chilies, diced

1 cup black beans, rinsed


Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve over spinach leaves or with pita chips

Nutrition Facts per ½ cup: 80 calories, 0.5 g. total fat, 370 mg. sodium, 17 g. carbohydrates, 4 g. dietary fiber, 3 g. protein

Looking for more information or recipes on Hominy? Check out the Household USDA Foods Factsheet: https://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/factsheets/HHFS_HOMINY-CANNED_WHOLE_LOW-SODIUM_100904.pdf

Gas Station Grabs: Finding Healthier Options at Convenience Stores https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11790/ Tue, 27 Sep 2016 14:30:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11790/ With the weather cooling down and the holidays creeping up, millions of Americans will be back on the road traveling to see family and friends. Finding healthy meal and snacking options while traveling can be tough. Previously I've blogged about packing healthy snacks similar to packing a suitcase, but sometimes there just is not enough time or space to pack a cooler full of healthy options. Whether it's traveling for holidays, or for work, stopping at the gas station to fuel up the car can lead to impulsively buying munchies filled with empty calories. Is there a way to eat healthier at gas stations while satisfying the need to snack? Check out options and tips below for navigating the gas station without overloading on excess fat, sugar, and salt.

Healthful Options

Craving Something Sweet

  • Go for the whole fruit-bananas, apples, oranges, or see if the gas station has any pre-packaged cut fruit or fruit cups.
  • Want that candy bar? Don't deny yourself just watch portion sizes. Consider buying the regular size bar over the king-size, or splitting the bar with the co-pilot.

Quick Salt Fix

  • Look for chip options in portion sized bags. Read the nutrition facts labels as many packages contain more than one serving. Remember various snacks have 2-3 servings per bag while the label only tells what is in one serving.
  • Choose "baked" options in the chip section. Baked chips have less fat, less calories, and won't make hands as oily-meaning less of a mess in the car.
  • Go for the unsalted almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds and other nuts & seeds. Nuts and seeds are great sustainable foods when traveling because they contain protein and fiber-two types of nutrients that will keep you full longer for long road trips.
  • Grab some popcorn. Popcorn is a whole grain and an easy snack to munch on while on the road.

Check out the Coolers

  • Coolers near the back of convenience stores or around the perimeter often contain more than just beverages. Rather than grabbing chips or snacks with "cheese flavoring" go for the real deal and pick up low fat string cheese.
  • Greek yogurt is also a great snack option for traveling. Greek yogurt typically contains lower amounts of added sugar and higher amounts of protein-helping stay full longer. Can't find a spoon? Wander over near the hot food options, there is often plastic utensils over there.

Breakfast, Energy, Power, and Meal Replacement Bars

  • Read the ingredient labels and look for bars with fewer ingredients. Ingredients are listed by weight with the first being the most present in the bar.
  • An easy rule of thumb when looking for a snack bar, look at the label, and for the entire bar aim for:
    • 150-200 calories with no more than 300 calories
    • Greater than 5 grams fiber
    • 5-10 grams protein and no more than 20 grams. Too much protein can be hard on the kidneys.
    • Less than 5 grams fat with zero trans fat
    • Less than 15 grams sugar
  • Vitamins and minerals do not go above 100% recommended daily value.

Beverages of Choice

  • Water, unsweetened tea, skim milk, and 100% juices are ideal options to quench thirst without overloading on empty calories.

Looking for healthy snacks in the gas station doesn't have to be an additional stress on your travels. Instead of impulsively going for the candy bar and pop, give yourself a few minutes to wander around the gas station and look at all the options. Best of luck traveling this upcoming holiday season and safe and healthy travels!

Making Jams & Jellies with Gelatin https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11404/ Fri, 27 May 2016 17:59:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11404/ Homemade jams and jelly recipes typically call for high amounts of added sugar, but what does the sugar do?

The purpose of sugar in jams and jellies is to assist with maintaining the texture and shape of the fruit, flavor, stabilizing color, and through a chemical reaction, the water from the fruit is "bound" to the sugar molecules slowing down microbial growth. Roughly about 65-68% of jams and jellies are sugar. Without sugar, the flavor of the jam will be different, have a softer texture, and the spread is more susceptible to mold. One sugar-free alternative to making jams and jellies is using unflavored powdered gelatin.

Unflavored gelatin works with jams and jellies just as it would with a fruit mold, giving the product a shape and smooth texture and works a thickening agent. Gelatin is a protein, derived from collagen found in animal bones, skin, and cartilage.

What's the difference between using pectin versus gelatin?

Unlike gelatin, a protein, pectin is a plant based carbohydrate found in the cell walls of fruit. The amount of natural pectin varies between fruits. Fruits naturally high in pectin include pears, oranges, apples, plumb, crabapples, and gooseberries. Commercial pectin is often used in the gelling process for fruits with lower amounts of natural pectin, but too much can mask the natural fruit flavors.

Can both pectin and gelatin based recipes be processed in a water bath canner?

No, jams and jellies made with gelatin should not be processed in a water bath canner or frozen. Sugar-free jams and jellies made with gelatin should be stored in a refrigerator at 41°F or below for up to four weeks. The gelatin will disintegrate when frozen and refrigeration is necessary to maintain gel formation. Pectin is used in scientifically tested water bath canning recipes, but liquid and powder pectin are not interchangeable. Follow the recipe exactly as stated.

Sparkling Strawberry Jam

Makes 1 pint of Jam

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

12-ounce can strawberry diet carbonated beverage

2 cups strawberries

1 tablespoon granulated artificial sweetener

Sprinkle gelatin over beverage in saucepan. Add berries; simmer 10 minutes. Add sweetener. Beat with mixer until smooth. Pour into jar leaving ¼ inch headspace. Cover. Store in refrigerator.

-University of Tennessee Extension

Refrigerated Apple Spread

Makes 4 half pints

2 tbsp unflavored gelatin powder

1 qt bottle unsweetened apple juice

2 tbsp bottled lemon juice

2 tbsp liquid low-calorie sweetener

Food coloring, if desired

In a saucepan, soften the gelatin in the apple and lemon juices. To dissolve gelatin, bring to a full rolling boil and boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sweetener and food coloring, if desired. Fill jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust lids. Do not process or freeze. Store in refrigerator and use within 4 weeks.

Optional:For spiced apple jelly, add 2 sticks of cinnamon and 4 whole cloves to mixture before boiling. Remove both spices before adding the sweetener and food coloring.

-USDA, "Complete Guide to Home Canning." National Center for Home Food Preservation

First Farmers Market of the Season: Taylorville Farmers Market and Terrific Turnips! https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11381/ Tue, 24 May 2016 15:56:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11381/ Farmers market season means another season of exploring the local produce in the area, visiting with neighbors, and supporting the local farmers. I made a goal this Summer to attend all the local farmers markets in Christian, Jersey, Macoupin, and Montgomery Counties. My first stop in my adventure was the Taylorville downtown farmers market in Christian county. This farmers market, located on the town square, runs from 9:00am-12:30pm on Saturdays through September. On the gorgeous Saturday morning in May I attended the downtown Taylorville Farmers Market, there was: vegetable plants such as cantaloupe, peppers, and tomatoes all set for planting,homemade jams, jellies, pastries, cookies, and other baked goods available. Individuals were also selling homemade crafts and even homemade dog treats to account for furry friends who joined their owners for some fresh air on their trip to the farmers market. Of course, it wouldn't be a farmers market without local produce. Vendors were also selling strawberries, lettuce, asparagus, green onions, and more! Check out a few of my tips based on my first trip to a Farmers Market in Illinois:

Tips for Based on My First Trip to the Farmers Market in Illinois

  • Consider the weather: Before leaving for the farmers market check the weather, and dress and prepare accordingly. Will you need a coat? Umbrella? This may seem silly, but could hinder the farmers market experience if you're shivering or sweating. Luckily, my trip to Taylorville was a beautiful Spring morning.
  • Bring your own bag: All the vendors are extremely accommodating when it came to providing bags, but it's a good idea to have heavy duty bag to bring with to make transporting easier. If you know you will be purchasing a large amount of items, it's a great idea to invest in a wagon or a wheeled cart
  • Come early: Most farmers' markets work on a first come, first serve basis. The best selection is early in the morning, especially with popular produce.
  • Talk to the producers: Ask the farmers about their produce. One vendor let me know of upcoming produce they will be bringing in weeks to come. This may help you meal plan!
  • Try something new: Unsure about certain fruits and vegetables? Purchase a new fresh fruit or vegetable in small amounts to liven up your pallet and support local Illinois farmers. In this case, I had never tried turnips before and purchased two small bags.

When coming home from the farmers market, keep food safety in mind. If you're traveling far, for me it was a 45 minute commute from my home, bring a small cooler to keep produce cool. Wash hands for 20 seconds under warm water before and after preparation. When I brought the turnips home from the farmers market in Taylorville, I used a vegetable brush and removed any excess dirt. Turnips can be kept up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, 8-10 months frozen, or one year canned using a pressure canner. Learn more about canning turnips through the National Center of Home Food Preservation .

I learned a lesson when working with turnips that I preach in my classes: never let one bad experience with a food turn you away from it completely. My first attempt with the turnips was to create turnip noodles using a spiral slicer. After sautéing with a few other vegetables and herbs and spices, the turnips flavor and texture were not desirable. Cooking is all about trial and error and this recipe was not worth sharing. I refused to give up on turnips and found success with taste and flavor by roasting them the following night with a recipe that enhanced the flavor of the locally grown turnips! Turnips are a great low calorie, fat and cholesterol free side dish with only 17 calories per half cup and high in vitamin C. Try a new lemon and rosemary roasted turnip recipe below the whole family will enjoy and don't forget to visit the Taylorville Farmers Market this Spring.

Lemon and Rosemary Roasted Turnips

3 cups turnips, diced

1 tsp. oregano, dried

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. rosemary, dried

1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 Tbs. lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp. salt (optional & not included in the nutrition facts)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix oil, broth, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Toss with diced turnips.

On a cookie sheet, or shallow pan, place coated turnips in the oven for 25 minutes. Take out and flip. Bake another 25 minutes and serve.

Nutrition Facts (1/2 cup per serving,6 servings): 45 calories, 2.5 grams total fat, 50 mg. sodium, 5 g. carbohydrates, 1 g. dietary fiber, 1 g. protein.

Want to see more pictures? Follow my journey to all the farmers markets this Summer on Instagram: @eatlocalcjmm. Also, don't forget about upcoming programming or follow me on a twitter at @MSSNutrition.
Ten Quick “Egg”cellent Food Safety Tips https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11157/ Thu, 24 Mar 2016 15:36:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11157/ This time of year is particularly popular for dyeing and decorating hard boiled eggs. Food safety is important to remember when handling eggs to prevent unwanted food borne illness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates 79,000 Americans get sick every year from Salmonella found in eggs. What can be done as consumers to prevent food poisoning? Read ten tips to help protect against food borne illness.

1. Wash Hands Often. Just like working with other types of protein such as, chicken or beef it is important to wash hands with hot soapy water when handling eggs. Avoid cross-contamination by washing surfaces, utensils, and cooking equipment exposed to eggs.

2. Do Not Wash Store Bought Eggs. When purchasing eggs from the grocery store there is no need to wash them prior to use. Eggs are washed and sanitized prior to packaging.

3. Check the Eggs for Chips or Cracks. Think of the outer shell and membrane of an egg as a barrier to prevent bacteria from getting into the egg. If cracked upon purchase, dispose of egg. Also if the egg is chipped, it is exposed to oxygen allowing bacteria to grow faster making it unsafe to eat.

4. Eggs Should Be Stored in their Original Container. Store bought eggs should be kept in their original container and can be kept 4-5 weeks past the date on the container. Eggs are cleaned and sanitized before packaging. The EXCEPTION to this rule is when hard boiling eggs; do not put eggs back in the original container as this may increase risk of Salmonella. Think of putting cooked chicken back in the package raw chicken came in-Yuck! Store eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator and not in the door.

5. 2 Hour Rule. Eggs should not be out of refrigerator temperature (41 °F or below) for more than two hours, even when hard-boiled. If eggs are used for hiding or decoration, and left at room temperature longer than two hours, it is best to dispose of them after use. One idea is to have a set of eggs for decorating and a set for eating.

6. No Runny Yolk. When cooking eggs, make sure the white of the egg is completely set and firm and the yolk has thickened. With scrambled eggs, no liquid egg should be left when cooking. Egg dishes such as quiches or casseroles should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F.

7. Store Hard-boiled Eggs (shelled or peeled) in the Refrigerator for One Week. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends keeping hard-boiled eggs for one week. Once eggs are hard-boiled, label a clean container with the toss date as a reminder. Cooked egg dishes can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days before disposal.

8. Hide Eggs in Low Contamination Areas. When hiding eggs, put them in locations away from dirt, pets, and other sources of bacteria to prevent contamination.

9. Know the Symptoms of Salmonella. The food borne illness, Salmonella typically occurs 12-72 hours after ingestion. In other words, you could eat a food contaminated with Salmonella on Sunday and still become sick that next Wednesday. Symptoms include fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting lasting between 4 and 7 days. Those at a higher risk for severe cases, which can lead to hospitalization, are young children, older adults, pregnant women, and weakened immune systems due to additional illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or diabetes.

10. Keep Eggs Cold When Transporting. Making deviled eggs for a family gathering? Pack eggs in an insulated cooler and with ice or freezer gel packs to keep the eggs cold. Avoid storing eggs in the warm trunk of a car, but rather in or below the passenger seat.

Looking for more information? Visit the FDA website, "Egg Safety: What you Need to Know," or learn how to make the perfect boiled eggs in a fun 2 minute video with "What's Cookin' with Mary Liz Wright!" Want a new healthier twist on a classic deviled egg? Try a Bacon and Cheddar Deviled Egg recipe. Have a "Hoppy"and "Egg-cellent" Spring!


This information is current as of March 2016. For re-publication of this blog or previous blogs please contact Lisa Peterson, Nutrition & Wellness Educator, lap5981@illinois.edu or Terri Miller, Publicity and Promotion Specialist, terrim@illinois.edu

Is there a Catch in Eating Tuna? https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11140/ Tue, 22 Mar 2016 15:00:00 +0000 https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cjmm/eb377/entry_11140/ How important is fish in the diet? Is canned tuna in water healthier than in oil? Isn't the mercury harmful? These three questions have come up in conversation during heart health classes over the last few weeks. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 8 ounces of a variety of seafood per week for both the general population and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, averaging 250 milligrams of Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. In following with the dietary guidelines, research shows individuals who consume eight ounces of seafood per week are at a reduced risk a cardiac event, with or without a pre-existing condition. One inexpensive fish readily available is tuna. Canned tuna is the second most popular seafood in the United States behind shrimp. Aside from the Omega-3 fatty acids, tuna is also a good source of nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin D, selenium and additional vitamins and minerals.

What's so special about Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids or essential fats, are a type of polyunsaturated fat that the body needs but must be consumed through food. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in every cell membrane in the human body. Both nutrients assist in gene expression, communication between cells, flexibility, help in cell metabolism, and as a lubricant.Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for pregnant women, as the DHA consumed by the mother helps with brain and eye development for the baby. Just because the body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, doesn't mean they are not needed. Research shows Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce blood clotting in the arteries, and delay the onset of atherosclerosis; lowers blood pressure, prevents an irregular heartbeat, reduce inflammation, and in high doses can reduce triglyceride levels. Aside from oily fish such as tuna, salmon, and sardines, omega-3 fatty acids are also found in chia seeds, kale, flaxseed, Brussel sprouts, and walnuts.

What about the Mercury?

First, mercury is a heavy metal that occurs naturally and can also be found due to industrial pollution. The mercury that is found in streams, rivers, and oceans is called methyl mercury, and considered harmful in large amounts to unborn babies, infants, and young children. Fish absorb the methyl mercury from the water and it can build up in their body. Almost all fish contain traces of methyl mercury, but older and larger fish tend to accumulate more. See the chart below for foods high and foods low in mercury. Young children and pregnant women are recommended by the Food and Drug Administration to avoid fish with high levels of mercury as the mercury can interfere with nervous system development.

Fish HIGH in Mercury

Fish LOW in Mercury

  • King Mackerel
  • Tilefish
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Shrimp
  • Catfish
  • Pollock
  • Canned Light Tuna
  • Salmon

Overall, the FDA advises eating no more than 12 ounces a week of fish and shellfish low in mercury, such as the fish listed above. Albacore (white tuna) contains more mercury than canned light tuna, but three times as much omega-3 fatty acids. Light tuna is skipjack, yellowfin, tongol, and sometimes big eye tuna. Canned light tuna may be a combination of different species. Incorporate fish and shellfish twice a week, and only half (6 oz.) from the albacore or steak tuna per week.

Oil vs. Water Packed Tuna

One readily available and inexpensive source of omega 3 fatty acids is canned or vacuum packaged tuna. Canned tuna is available in water or oil. Tuna packaged in water is lower in fat and calories, but has a similar amount of sodium, cholesterol, and protein as oil packed. Although tuna packaged in water is lower in calories, tuna in oil is packed in heart healthy fats such as olive oil or soybean oil. Read the nutrition labels, tuna packaged in water retain a higher level of EPA and DHA. Water and oil do not mix, meaning when draining water packed tuna the oils stay with the tuna and the essential fatty acids do not go down the drain. Individuals may prefer one over the other based on texture or flavor. Tuna canned in oil is also cooked in oil and has a stronger fish taste.

Canned vs. Vacuum Packed (Pouch) Tuna

Both canned and vacuum packed tuna, also called pouch tuna, should be stored at room temperature in a cool and dry place. Pouch tuna is stored without water, has a chunkier texture, and has a stronger tuna flavor. Because of packaging, vacuumed packed tuna is typically more expensive than canned.

Storage & Handling

  • Research shows canned tuna should be consumed within 6 months of purchase for an optimum amount of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Canned or pouch tuna, for optimum quality, should be stored in a cool and dry place, such as a pantry
  • Store recently purchased tuna behind older to help remember to use older products first
  • If cans or pouches are rusted, bulging, torn or dented, do not use them as these are all signs of spoilage. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • The average shelf life of canned tuna is 4 years and vacuumed packaged or pouched tuna is 3 years when kept in optimum conditions. Check the can, package, or manufacturer for best when used by dates. Once opened, store fish in a sealed container in the refrigerator and consume or toss after 3-4 days.

Overall, canned or pouched tuna is a wonderful source of protein and heart healthy essential omega-3 fatty acids. Make a goal of eating fish twice this week or make it a part of two meals. Looking for a new recipe this week with tuna? Try a unique tuna fritter side dish below the whole family will love!

Sweet Tuna Fritters

6 oz. canned light tuna in water, drained

1 egg

2/3 cup rolled quick oats

2 Tbs. barbeque sauce

3 Tbs. chopped green onions

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

½ tsp. garlic powder

2 Tbs. olive oil

  1. In a small bowl, beat egg and combine tuna, oats, bbq sauce, onions, chili powder, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.
  2. Over medium heat, coat pan in 2 tbs. olive oil. Scoop one tablespoon of batter into pan; flip every 3 minutes until a golden brown.

*Hint: To create a spicier fritter add an extra 1/2 -1 tsp. chili powder

Yield: 10 servings (fritters)

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving: 80 calories, 4 g. fat, .5 g. saturated fat,30 mg.cholesterol, 125 mg. sodium, 6 g. carbs,1 g. dietary fiber, 5 g. protein

For republication of this blog post, please contact Lisa Peterson, Nutrition & Wellness Educator, lap5981@illinois.edu or Terri Miller, publicity & promotion specialist, terrim@illinois.edu. Thank you!



Asim Maqbool, Birgitta Strandvik and Virginia A Stallings (2011). The skinny on tuna fat: health implications. Public Health Nutrition, 14, pp 2049-2054. doi:10.1017/S1368980010003757.

"About Seafood." National Fisheries Institute. http://www.aboutseafood.com/tuna-council-3/about-tuna-council/

Siriamornpun S, Lifeng Y, Kubola J, Duo L. CHANGES OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID CONTENT AND LIPID COMPOSITION IN CANNED TUNA DURING 12-MONTH STORAGE.Journal Of Food Lipids[serial online]. June 2008;15(2):164-175. Available from: Business Source Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 22, 2016.

"What you Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish." U.S. Food and Drug Administration. March 2004.

"What you Should Know about Tuna." Berkley Wellness. University of California Berkley. 1 October 2011. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/what-you-should-know-about-tuna