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Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD

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The FOUR Things ALL Food Service Staff Need to Know!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Aug 18, 2016 2:34:39 PM

The most important component of food safety is employee training. Though some foodborne illnesses can be traced to specific suppliers, the manner in which food is handled is usually the culprit. 

Investing in training procedures that educate food handlers about the proper way to prepare food is of the utmost importance. Something as simple as an unwashed hand or a seemingly innocent sneeze really can compromise the integrity of a food product. Too many food service providers make the critical mistake of assuming that food handlers understand the nuances of proper personal hygiene. Some employees mistakenly believe that their personal hygiene is up to par when, in reality, it does not meet the standards of their employer.

Hand_Washing.png1. Proper Hand Washing

Every food service worker should be thoroughly trained in regard to how to clean his hands. Simply running warm water over one’s hands with a dab of soap will not provide a comprehensive clean that guarantees food safety. Rather, employees must be shown how to properly wash their hands. They should have the opportunity to view an in-person demonstration as to how hands must be cleaned before work starts, before returning from break/lunch and after using the restroom. To the surprise of many, a thorough hand-cleaning requires the use of hot water and anti-bacterial soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. Employees should be taught to perform a mental countdown during this hand-washing period to ensure their hands are thoroughly cleaned. Even the lower portion of the wrists should be cleaned as this area often comes into contact with food, dishes and utensils.

2. Correct Food Handling

It is imperative that food service providers train their staff to handle food in the proper manner. Every food service worker should use gloves unless gloves preclude the proper preparation of the food. The unfortunate truth is that few food service workers use food prep gloves as they should. Plenty of food service workers will touch food with their bare hands, assuming that a hand-washing performed hours ago will prevent the transmission of harmful bacteria and other particles that can cause illness. Food service managers should explain that touching knife handles, cutting boards, pots, pans, trays and other kitchen items can result in tainted food. Each of these kitchen items has the potential to harbor germs and viruses. Merely touching a pan’s handle with one’s hand and then using that hand to prepare food can spread germs to a diner’s meal. Employees must also be trained to discard their gloves after they have come into contact with other potentially germ-laden surfaces. Keep a fresh supply of food prep gloves on-hand at all times so food service workers do not hesitate to scrap their used gloves for a new pair that is guaranteed to be germ-free. Though a steady supply of food prep gloves will certainly add to overhead expenses, their aggregate cost is minimal compared to the risk of sickening a patron and the financial impact of an outbreak of food poisoning.

3. Avoiding Cross-Contamination

Proper food handling procedures extend beyond washing one’s hands and using food prep gloves. Employees must be extensively trained regarding cross-contamination prevention tactics. If possible, use color-coded cutting boards for different ingredients.  For example, green for produce and red for raw meat.  If budget doesn’t allow for designated cutting boards, food handlers should be taught to clean cutting boards and other food preparation surfaces after cutting raw meat, fish and poultry. These surfaces should be cleaned with hot, soapy water and sanitized with at least one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach (or similar sanitizer) mixed with a gallon of water. 

Utensils used to prepare these foods should be cleaned with hot water and an anti-bacterial dish liquid before being returned to the food preparation area. If these food prep items are not thoroughly cleaned, they could carry harmful bacteria from the meat, poultry or fish and transmit it to the next item that is sliced on the surface or prepared with previously used utensils. Furthermore, it is imperative that food service managers train their staff to keep marinated poultry and meat in a covered dish at all times. This way, potentially harmful airborne particles will not be able to reach the food as it soaks up the marinade’s flavors in the ensuing hours.

thermometer_food_storage.jpg4. Storing Food and Temperature Management

When it comes to food storage, a surprising number of food service managers errantly assume their staff understands the basics. It is widely assumed that food service workers know the ins and outs of proper food storage simply because they have experience in the industry. In reality, most food service workers have drastically different ideas as to what qualifies as the proper way to store food. This is precisely why every employee should be extensively educated regarding the appropriate temperature for food storage and cooking.

If the temperature in the kitchen/food prep space is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, perishable food should be refrigerated within an hour or less. Otherwise, the widely accepted food safety standard for perishable food is to properly store in the refrigerator within two hours or less. Merely tossing perishable food like poultry and meat into the refrigerator/freezer will not suffice. These sensitive items should be tightly wrapped in a secure manner to preserve their quality. A thorough wrapping will also guard against meat juices from leaking out and tainting other food.

Food service workers should also be taught to use a thermometer to check the temperature of the on-site refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis. The refrigerator should always be at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less at all times. The freezer should be kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit or less. Though many food service employees will let fresh fish, poultry and ground meats sit in their home refrigerator/freezer for several days, there is a different standard when it comes to serving the public. Such food should be either cooked or frozen within two days. Pork, lamb, veal and beef should be cooked or frozen in five days or less.

For more training resources, download our free food safety training modules!

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Topics: Food Safety

The Causes of Malnutrition in Older Adults

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Apr 27, 2016 11:00:00 AM

While we often hear about children in our society not having access to a proper diet and measures being taken to try to improve their condition, we do not hear as much about the issues facing our older adult population. The fact is, as many as 50-percent of seniors are at risk for shortcomings in their daily food nutrient requirements. Evidence-based research has produced some startling facts that build a case for working to overcome malnutrition in seniors.


The Staggering Costs of Undernourished Older Adults

You are likely aware that malnutrition in seniors will impact their health and well-being, however, it may surprise you to learn that in the United States alone, over 50 billion dollars is attributed to the cost of disease-associated undernourishment in the aging population annually. While chronic health conditions can cause a nutrient deficiency, malnutrition also leads to more health complications, falls and hospital admissions in older adults. It is a dangerous cycle that must be stopped. Some more statistics that may astonish you include:

  • One of every two seniors are at risk of malnutrition
  • A 300-percent increase in healthcare costs is linked to undernourishment in older adults
  • Up to 60-percent of seniors hospitalized suffer from the result of malnutrition 
  • Malnutrition can increase a hospital stay for a senior by as many as four to six days

Considering the relatively low cost of ensuring adequate nourishment, it is vital that we do what we can to prevent malnutrition in seniors.

Adequate Income not the Only Way to Defeat Malnutrition in Seniors

Malnutrition in seniors is not relegated only to those with low incomes. There are several underlying causes of undernourishment in the aging population.  Most can be categorized as physiological, sociological, psychological or pathological.

Physiological Causes

During the aging process, many changes occur in the body that contribute to decreased appetite and a lack of interest in food:

  • A decrease in both the senses of taste and smell lower the desire for meals
  • Diminishes in taste and smell may lead to increased salt and sugar intake and lower the desire for adequate variety of food choices
  • Slower gastric function and decreased acid production delays emptying the system
  • Lean body mass decreases, further slowing metabolism and hunger 

While these changes are a natural progression, being aware of them and watching for signs is critical in preventing malnutrition in seniors.

Sociological Causes

Aging is difficult for many to accept and can have a serious effect on the sociological factors involved in seniors' eating habits:

  • A reduced ability to shop for and prepare food
  • Fixed income and socioeconomic status may affect food choices
  • Impairment of life skills and activities
  • Being alone at mealtimes

Outwardly you may not realize these are all factors in undernourishment, but in this class there are attainable solutions.

Psychological Causes

Concerns in this category run deeper than the social aspect of decreased appetite and should be addressed with a medical professional as soon as they are suspected:

  • Depression and a general attitude that life is meaningless
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Grief over the loss of a spouse or friends
  • Life events that are emotionally stressful

Armed with understanding, combating undernourishment in seniors due to psychological concerns can be improved quickly through emotional support and proper medical attention.

Pathological Causes

The final category of causes is another that requires medical intervention and if symptoms are observed, should be addressed as early as possible:

  • Problems with the teeth and jaws
  • Alcoholism
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Underlying disease such as cancer, diabetes and thyroid issues
  • Dementia 
  • Medications that interfere with digestion or hunger

Again, these are all causes that should be addressed by a medical professional as early as possible to mitigate the effects of malnutrition in seniors. 

How We can Overcome Malnutrition in Seniors

While we we may not be able to eradicate undernourishment in all seniors, armed with this information, you can be sure your loved ones or older adults in your care are not at risk for malnutrition. Some tips include:

  • Regular nutritional assessments and follow-up on any prescribed treatments
  • Spend time together, particularly at mealtimes whenever possible
  • Consider a prepared meal service to combat apathy or poor food choices
  • Try to help your senior loved-one stay as active as possible, both socially and physically

One senior at a time, we can all help prevent malnutrition in our older adult population by focusing on those under our care and understanding the underlying causes. 

The more a senior has access to healthy foods and all of life’s necessities, the easier it will be to age-at-home. For more information on choosing a home-delivered meals provider, download our free ebook:

Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider



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Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health, Nutrition Care

Does Food Security Impact Hospital Readmissions?

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Apr 20, 2016 9:59:59 AM


Food Security (or Insecurity) Defined!

Food security, or insecurity, is a social, cultural or economic status, whereas hunger is a physiological condition – the physical pain and discomfort someone experiences. Hunger doesn’t describe the scope of food security, or insecurity, which is when people do not have access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a validated survey with 18 questions to determine a person’s level of food security. Based on the answers to these questions, the USDA defines the levels of food security as:

  • High food security: answers “no” to all 18 questions.
  • Marginal food security: answers “yes” to one or two questions.
  • Low food security: answers “yes” to three or more questions.
  • Very low food security: answers “yes” to five or more questions in homes without children or “yes” to eight or more questions in households with children.

Food Security Among the Elderly

In the US, 48.1 million people live in households with low or very low food security. Of those people, 20% or 9.6 million are seniors. Seniors with low food security tend to have medical and mobility challenges. Per AARP, those at the greatest risk for low food security are the poor, minorities, the unemployed, the disabled, and those living in the South.

Older adults above the poverty level may also be at risk for low food security, particularly if they are unable to shop for and prepare foods.

Consequences of Low Food Security

Low food security is a strong predictor of health problems like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and pulmonary disease. Adding to the problem, these chronic conditions increase the medical expenses of those with low food security, often forcing them to choose between paying for medical care and buying food. In turn, the chronic conditions increase healthcare expenditures paid by health plans, Medicare and/or Medicaid.

A recent study looked at the impact that low food security has on high rates of hospital readmissions. They interviewed 40 adults with three or more hospitalizations within a 12-month period. Here are their findings:

  • 30% were low or very low food secure
  • 25% were marginally food secure
  • 75% were unable to shop for food on their own
  • 58% were unable to prepare their own food 

The researchers recommend interventions that educate and connect patients with unmet food needs to community resources after discharge. 

hospitalization_LR.pngTransition Care Planning

Healthcare professionals need to evaluate a patient’s food security level as part of the transitional care plan upon discharge from the hospital. Most transition care models don’t incorporate nutrition care, including screening for unmet food needs, after discharge. A guide from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, recommends addressing food security as a strategy to avoid readmissions for diverse populations. After a hospitalization, patients generally have decreased energy, pain, weakness, and a poor appetite, putting those with low food security at an even greater risk for malnutrition, and associated poor outcomes.

Connecting low food secure patients with resources such as home-delivered meals (HDM), decreases their need for shopping and cooking after a hospitalization. HDMs provide a regular source of nutritious food for those that need it for their recovery, reducing medical costs and the risk of a hospital readmission.


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Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Senior Health, Healthcare Cost Reduction, Food Insecurity, Medicare, Food Security, Malnutrition, Medicaid

Celebrate Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day with GA Foods!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Mar 9, 2016 10:00:00 AM

March is National Nutrition Month® (NNM). NNM focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year's theme is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right," which encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives. For the next few weeks, our blog will focus on health and eating tips as part of NNM.  

Happy RDN Day!

Today is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Day. RDN Day commemorates the dedication of RDNs as advocates for advancing the nutritional status of people around the world. RDN Day was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to increase the awareness of registered dietitian nutritionists as the indispensable providers of food and nutrition services and to recognize RDNs for their commitment to helping people enjoy healthy lives. RDNs are the nutrition experts with degrees in nutrition, dietetics, public health or a related field from accredited colleges and universities. In addition, they must complete an internship and pass an examination before practicing.

We'd like to take the time to recognize and spotlight two of the RDNs on the GA Foods team!

Levinia_and_Joann_LR.pngPictured:  Joann Pierre (left) and Levinia Clark (right).

Meet Levinia Clark

Levinia has been with GA Foods for almost 13 years and currently is our Nutrition Services Manager. She completed her internship at the University of Illinois Medical Center and has been practicing for 39 years. She chose to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist because she wanted to learn how and what various nutrients do to the nutritional status of the body. She enjoys her job because she knows the daily nourishment GA Foods provides to children and older adults positively impacts their health.

Levinia's favorite food is Mexican in ANY way, shape or form and she likes going to the beach as often as possible. Her favorite nutrition tip is, "Diet should not be a way of life…rather  healthy eating for a healthy body and healthier you!"

Say Hi to Joann Pierre

Joann went to the University of North Florida for her undergraduate degree as well as her Master's degree and dietetic internship. She has been with GA Foods for over 2 years. Joann decided to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist after taking a few nutrition/dietetic courses. She was drawn to the idea that the foods we eat, cook, create, and grow, shape everything around us from our bodies to the planet we live in. She wants to be a part of positive change in the food world.  Joann loves her job because she knows she is making an impact on our society. Per Joann, "To some, it is just meals we serve, but to me, we provide nourishment and hope for the young to elderly and their families."

Joann enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and her dog, TJ. She also likes to cook, run, and attend concerts and basketball games. Her favorite nutrition tip is, "Moderation is key. Enjoy all types of food! Food is not only for nourishment, but it is also here for you to enjoy! Just remember to balance what you eat."

 Thank you!

We appreciate our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and their valuable contributions and expertise in nutrition. They exemplify GA Foods' core values, touching lives, commitment, one team, ownership, integrity and trust, in everything they do!

For more information on National Nutrition Month®, click here.


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Topics: Nutrition, National Nutrition Month, Registered Dietitians

5 Myths about Healthy Foods

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Mar 2, 2016 10:00:00 AM

If you've glanced at a magazine or online health site lately, you've probably been bombarded by the term 'superfood'. This is a term that is bandied about haphazardly, and often misunderstood, causing people to overeat (or just simply eat) the wrong foods.

There is no true scientific definition for the term 'superfood'; it is just a term that the nutrition world came up with to signify a food that is full of nutrients that keep the body healthy. While there are many foods out there that are good for you, you should never focus on just one, especially if you are focusing on it simply because it’s part of a current craze.

Here are five myths about healthy foods that you can learn from:

1) Coconut Oil: You have probably heard a great deal about coconut oil. It's been touted as a cure-all for nearly everything that ails you. Unfortunately, while coconut oil has been called a 'healthy oil', it is actually very high in saturated fat. While most people claim that it is okay to substitute this oil in everything from baking to frying to sauteing, as it is a medium-chain triglyceride (which would make it a less damaging form of saturated fat), there is no significant research to back up this claim.

Many experts still say that cooking with olive or canola oil is better, as they have the lowest amount of saturated fats.

healthy_meals.jpg2) Egg Whites: For years it seems you have heard conflicting information when it comes to eggs. One study says don't eat the yolks, the next study says eat the entire egg. Today, the science seems to have come to a consensus: eat the yolks, folks!

Once upon a time, yolks were removed because they are high in cholesterol, but not today. Today, nutritionists agree that without the yolks, you lose half the benefits of eggs. The yolk contains all of an egg's fat-soluble vitamins; vitamins A, D, E, and K. Yolks also contain a number of other nutrients, such as choline and selenium.

3) Granola: Granola may have a reputation as a healthy food, but it is actually loaded with calories, sugar and fat. If you've ever added granola to your diet and started gaining weight, it is probably the culprit. For granola lovers, don't worry, you don't have to cut it out of your meal plans entirely, just eat it (like all things) in moderation.

4) Kombucha: One of the newest buzzwords in the health and nutrition market is kombucha. Kombucha is a black tea that is fermented with yeast, bacteria and sugar. The hype is that it can detox the body, give you more energy, improve your digestion, and even enhance your immune system. The truth? There is no proof for any of this. Studies show that it does no more for you than yogurt or popping a probiotic pill.

senior_meals.jpgIt's also important to note that there have been some contamination issues with kombucha, involving bacteria and fungus, which can be very dangerous or anyone with a weakened immune system (such as older people, very young people, or pregnant and nursing mothers).

Remember, there are plenty of teas out there that are very healthy, with their health claims backed by science. Teas contain flavonoids which will help reduce your risk of heart disease.

5) Veggie Burgers:
While they may not be enjoying the heyday that they once did, veggie burgers are still around, and many people believe that they are a healthier option than fresh meat burgers. Not so. Most veggie burgers that you buy in your grocer's freezer section are heavily processed and have ingredients included that you cannot pronounce.

If you must eat a veggie burger, make sure to read the ingredient list and opt for ones with less ingredients (the more minimally processed choices). But if you were simply eating veggie burgers to save calories, opt for a fish-based burger, a turkey burger, a ground chicken burger or a lean red meat burger. Typically these will offer you more nutrition, fewer chemical additives, and fewer calories.

Variety is the Spice of Life

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans stress variety. Remember that no single food can provide every single nutrient that your body needs to function properly, so your best bet is to eat a variety of healthy foods.

If you are looking for healthy meals delivered, look to GA Foods. Download our free eBook to learn more about selecting a home-delivered meals provider. 

 Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

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Topics: Nutrition, Home Delivered Meals, Healthy Lunch

Food as Medicine for Chronic Disease Management

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Feb 24, 2016 10:00:00 AM

chronic_disease_management.jpgMany older adults, especially those who are homebound, do not receive adequate balanced meals, which are important for managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and are vital for disease prevention. Unfortunately, proper nutrition and diet sometimes takes a backseat to other steps in disease management, but it should never be overlooked. The body needs to receive the right balance of calories, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fats, and proteins from food in order to function well. Food as medicine is not a new concept, but a good diet should be taken seriously and be a top goal to help ensure better quality of life.

Good Nutrition can Reduce Medical Costs

It is well known that diets too high in sugar, salt and saturated fats lead to poorer health. In addition, most of these diets also lack the fiber, vitamins and minerals essential for healthy physiological functions. Nutritional deficiencies can cause many types of health problems such as a weakened immune system, bone loss, muscle weakness, anemia, balance issues, fatigue and confusion. All of these health issues can influence, directly or indirectly, the number of times you end up in your doctor’s office or even the hospital.

A better food plan can prevent problems before they begin in addition to reducing symptoms of chronic ailments. Better nutrition can improve cholesterol, improve blood pressure, bone strength and joint health, and diminish other problems you might experience with age. When you eat a better, balanced diet, your physician may be able to lower your dosage of certain medications, which can save money.

Whether or not balanced meals are used as part of chronic disease management or disease prevention, there is a lot of evidence that using food as medicine in this way can reduce your healthcare costs.

Healthy home delivered meals are one convenient option for ensuring better nutrition. This takes the guesswork out of meal planning and eliminates the stress of searching for healthy, easy meals at the grocery store.

Finding Meals to Meet Special Dietary Needs

Food plays a very strong role in controlling certain diseases, such as diabetes. Eating the right foods, and the right amount of foods, helps keep blood glucose levels as stable as possible. In addition, a diet rich in nutrients and low in sugar and bad fats promotes a healthy weight and helps prevent or treat other diseases common to diabetics, such as heart disease.

For anyone who has mobility problems or difficulty cooking, having diabetic meals delivered is easier than trying to maintain a balanced diet on your own. You will be more likely to stick to the meal plan prescribed by your doctor and resist reaching for supermarket convenience foods, which are often loaded with hidden sugars.

Packaged dinners and similar foods, including canned soups, are also typically high in sodium. Restaurant food usually scores no better. If your doctor has prescribed a low sodium diet, it is very important to avoid excess salt. Sodium increases blood pressure and this affects many organs, including the heart. It makes the heart work much harder. Reducing sodium not only helps relieve some symptoms but can also help you live longer. Those who need a sodium-restricted diet should consider having low sodium meals delivered, which makes it easier to stay on track.

The Importance of Nutrition Post-Surgery

The concept of food as medicine is especially clear in light of healing after an operation. The body needs extra calories, vitamins and minerals after surgery to promote wound healing and boost the immune system. Without sufficient protein and other nutrients, your post-surgery recovery can be delayed or you might experience extra complications, such as infections.

Treating food as medicine is one of the best things to do during the convalescence period. However, many post-surgery patients don’t get the right nutrition once they leave the hospital. This is usually because of fatigue, limited mobility, and lessened appetite. Cooking healthy meals is often the last thing on the patient’s mind. In this situation, home delivered meals are a way to fill this nutritional deficit and offer comfort and peace of mind by eliminating worry about getting a proper diet.

The elderly are more at risk for nutritional deficits than most of the population. This is due to reduced appetite, reduced mobility, reduced income and emotional factors, such as depression. Good nutrition fuels the body with the natural, necessary ingredients it needs to fight illness and increase overall well-being. A healthy diet should always be a part of an older adult’s care plan.

To learn more about the impact of nutrition on your health, download our eBook:

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Topics: Home Delivered Meals

School Lunch by the Numbers

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Feb 17, 2016 10:00:00 AM


Are you curious about your child's school lunch program?  Are the lunches nutritious? Are the lunches affordable? Are there a variety of foods offered? There are so many questions surrounding school lunch today, it's no wonder parents find themselves contemplating whether or not they should pack their child's lunch each day.

The National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that has been in existence since 1946, and serves 5 billion lunches to students annually. It is available in both public and private schools. The program provides nutritious meals for free or at a low-cost, for students every day.  

Nearly 100,000 schools/institutions serve school lunches to 30.5 million students each day, including:

- 19.8 million free lunches 
- 2.2 million reduced price (student pays $0.40) 
- 8.5 million full price 

Who Qualifies, Who Benefits

To qualify for free or reduced school lunches year-round, parents or guardians must fill out an application at the beginning of each school year, however, parents can fill out an application at any time throughout the year. Families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty level are eligible for free school meals. For the current school year, the poverty level is $31,525 for a family of four. Those with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced price meals. If your income is above 185% of the poverty level, your child will pay full price for school lunch. 

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (or HHFKA) passed in 2010, strengthened the nutritional standards for meals served under the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and more.  When the standards were implemented, many experts thought school lunch participation would be reduced. Some groups, like the School Nutrition Association, reported the standards were too strict to implement without increased costs and food waste.

However, more than 97 percent of schools are meeting these updated standards, and many schools are even adding fresh, local produce into their meals through farm-to-school initiatives (part of the Farm-to-School Grants program). The USDA also revised their commodity requirements when it comes to school meals and added more than 200 nutritious foods to support the new school meal programs.

Supporters of HHFKA say the new school lunch stardards are the first steps in improving America's diet. Not only are children able to avoid disease by maintaining a well-balanced diet each day, they are also learning how to eat healthy for life. A recent study found the improved nutrition standards resulted in students selecting foods that are higher in the nutrients they need for growth and development, and also showed no change in school lunch participation after the nutrition standards were implemented. 

School Lunch in 2016

This year, the reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has been delayed. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (CNR) in January, but it still needs to pass the full Senate and House. In this bill, schools will be given more time and flexibility to implement sodium and whole grain standards.  It also asks for the USDA to provide best practices on ways to reduce food waste through salad bars and sharing tables.

GA Foods supports healthy child nutrition programs and will continue to update you to potential changes to the law as it goes before the Senate and House for a vote. 

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Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch

New Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Eating

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Jan 7, 2016 1:57:06 PM


DGA_Link.jpgThe 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released today. The updated nutritional guidelines encourage Americans to adopt a series of science-based recommendations to improve how they eat to reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

“Protecting the health of the American public includes empowering them with the tools they need to make healthy choices in their daily lives. By focusing on small shifts in what we eat and drink, eating healthy becomes more manageable,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell.

The newly released 8th edition of the Dietary Guidelines reflects advancements in scientific understanding about healthy eating choices and health outcomes over a lifetime. This edition recognizes the importance of focusing not on individual nutrients or foods in isolation, but on the variety of what people eat and drink—healthy eating patterns as a whole—to bring about lasting improvements in individual and population health.

DGA_Graphic1_tn-1.jpgKey Recommendations 

The overarching recommendations are:
  • - Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. 
  • - Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount.
    • - Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats,      and reduce sodium intake.
  • - Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
  • - Support healthy eating patterns for all.

A Healthy Eating Pattern

Healthy eating patterns support a healthy body weight and can help prevent and reduce the risk of chronic disease throughout periods of growth, development, and aging as well as during pregnancy.  The guidelines recommend Americans eat:

- A variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, legumes, starchy and other vegetables
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
- Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Oils also are also naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados

The guidelines also recommend limiting saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars and sodium. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation.

A New Paradigm

The Dietary Guidelines recognizes the need to create a new paradigm in which healthy lifestyle choices at home, school, work, and in the community are easy, accessible, affordable, and normative. The guidelines include strategies to help professionals in leading disease-prevention efforts within their organizations and communities to make healthy eating and regular physical activity an organizational and societal norm.

For more information and resources, click here.

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Topics: Nutrition, Chronic Disease Management

Take a Minute (or even 10) for YOU in the New Year

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Jan 6, 2016 11:00:00 AM

caregiver_LR.pngLife can be stressful. It sometimes feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or even enough days in the month. It’s easy to stretch yourself too thin and forget about taking care of the most important person in your world—you. This is a particular problem for caregivers.

Whether you’re a parent with young children, taking care of a spouse or older parent, or are in a caregiving profession like nursing or care management, you probably feel that doing something for yourself is self-indulgent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Taking care of yourself—on an inner as well as outer level—is a key part of being healthy and whole and able to care for someone else.

But how do you make time for yourself? You don’t have to carve out hours in your schedule. Take a moment wherever you find it. Just a few minutes here and there can have a big impact on your inner life and overall wellbeing. With that in mind, make a New Year’s resolution to take care of you! Here are several ways to be good to your self every day that only take a few minutes.

Learn how to say “no”

Saying “no” can be difficult, even when saying “yes” isn’t the best thing for you. When you’re a giving person, it’s all too easy to take on too much and find yourself overwhelmed, but taking on more commitments than you can reasonably handle doesn’t do anyone any favors. Saying “no” sometimes not only reduces your stress, it allows you to do a better job with the things you do say “yes” to.

Enjoy a cup of joe (or tea)

Sometimes the simplest pleasures have the most profound effect. If you find yourself rushing through the morning with your coffee cup in hand, or popping into the drive-through for a quick pick-me-up on the go—stop. Take ten minutes to sit down and really enjoy it. The world won’t end if you stop for ten minutes, but your stress level may certainly improve. Take a few deep breaths, let some tension go, and take the time to savor that morning drink. It will make the rest of your day look a lot brighter.

lower_stress_LR.pngSpend some quality time with your pet

Research shows that petting your dog or cat lowers your stress levels significantly. So take a few minutes each day to spend time with your four-legged friend if you have one.


Just five minutes of meditation a day can have a significant effect on your health—both mental and physical. And contrary to popular belief, meditation doesn’t mean emptying your mind of thoughts or shutting them out. Instead it means sitting quietly and really being present in the current moment.

Here’s what to do: find a place where you have quiet for five minutes. Even the bathroom will do. Sit down in a comfortable position, close your eyes, relax, and simply pay attention to your breathing. Don’t try to stop your thoughts—trying to shut them away will just make them more insistent. Instead, notice them but don’t get caught up in them. Let them float across your mind and away like clouds in a sunny sky. If you find yourself following a thought, just let it go and bring your attention back to your breathing. Do this for five minutes.

Light a candle

Candles add a little warmth to the atmosphere, both literally and figuratively. A lit candle can add a little magic to an otherwise mundane setting, and a pleasantly-scented candle can have a real psychological effect. Choose a scent that evokes pleasant memories or peaceful feelings.

Read some fiction

Getting lost in a good story can be one of the great pleasures of life. It can take you away from day-to-day cares, or let you live vicariously through someone else. So grab a book. A few minutes reading here and there can be a welcome bit of relaxation for your mind.

Think you don’t have time to read? Try an audiobook. Most books now have an audio version available, so even if you’re often on the go you can take your story with you. You can listen in the car, on the bus, while you’re waiting in line, or any time you don’t need your mind actively engaged in something else, like when you’re doing household chores. And not only do you get the pleasure of a great story, you get the comfort of being read to like when you were a child.

Play it again, Sam

When you need a little pick-me-up, or you’re feeling down or even a little run-down, try putting on some music. Music affects your mood, so choose something that suits the state of mind you want to be in. If you need to slow down, choose something ambient and restful. If you need to get the housework done and you just can’t seem to get motivated, choose something upbeat.

Keep a journal

Journaling is not only a great stress reliever, it lets you look back later and see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. You can pour your heart out to a journal without worrying about what anyone thinks—whether you’re happy, sad, or silly, just putting the words on paper often helps. And you don’t have to spend a long time doing it; a few minutes a day is plenty.


Laughter really is the best medicine. Take the opportunity to laugh whenever you can. Laughter doesn’t just make you feel better, it has an actual physical effect on your body. It releases feel-good chemicals and lowers your levels of stress hormones, which is good for your heart, your mind, and your overall health.

Being good to yourself doesn’t have to mean an afternoon at the day spa, or taking a whole day for yourself. While these things are nice, all the little moments also add up. A few minutes here and there can be good not just for you, but for everyone around you too.

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Topics: Reduce Stress, Caregivers, Stress

Child Nutrition Reauthorization Postponed by Congress

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Dec 16, 2015 4:14:07 PM

This update is a follow-up to an earlier article about Child Nutrition Reauthorization. 

Last night, Congressional leaders reached an agreement on a spending bill that will prevent a government shutdown.  The text of the FY16 Omnibus Appropriations Act was released earlier today. Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the bill this Friday. 

Cute-elementary-school-girl-eating-healthy-lunch-in-cafeteria-000043847850_Medium.jpgThe bill does not include Child Nutrition Reauthorization despite the efforts of the Senate Agriculture Committee to attach a reauthorization bill onto the omnibus.  However, the omnibus does uphold language from a 2014 omnibus that allows waivers of the whole grain requirement and postpones further sodium restrictions “until the latest scientific research establishes the reduction is beneficial for children.”

Per Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Child Nutrition Reauthorization (also known as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act) will be considered in January or early February as a free-standing bill.

GA Foods supports healthier meals for children. We will continue to closely monitor the reauthorization of Child Nutrition Reauthorization and any potential changes to the law in 2016.

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Topics: Child Nutrition

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