The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline telephone number is available to non-District residents only. D.C. residents must call the Hotline at 447-3333, while all others may use 800-535-4555, as was listed in the Dec. 4 Food section's Nutrition column.
Q. Recently I read that the daily adult protein requirement is about two ounces. Does this mean that two ounces of meat is all I need to get enough protein?
A. No. Two ounces of meat contain not only protein. Even after it is cooked, over 50 percent of the wieght of a hamburger is water. And it also contains fat. On average, two ounces of meat provide 14 grams of protein, or about one-fourth of the recommended protein allowance.
The figure you ask about, two ounces, or about 60 grams, is roughly the recommended protein allowance for nonpregnant, nonlactating adults. The more precise Recommended Dietary Allowance is 0.8 grams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. Thus the RDA for a woman weighing 120 pounds, or 54.5 kg, would be 44 grams, or just over 1.5 ounces. That for a man who weighs 70 kg, or 154 pounds, would be 56 grams, or nearly two ounces.
Consider that a cup of milk contains eight grams (or even more if you use commonly available protein-fortified low-fat milk). An ounce of meat, fish, poultry, egg or cheese, or a half-cup serving of most cooked dried beans, has about seven grams. Every slice of bread or half-cup serving of vegetable, potato, cereal, pasta, noodles and rice contains an average of two grams. In light of this, it is clear that people have little trouble getting two ounces of protein a day and then some.
Q. My husband and I have replaced our morning orange juice with cranberry-juice cocktail, mainly because we wanted a change. Can you tell me how the two compare nutritionally?
A. A major difference is that orange juice contains nothing but the juice itself. In fact, while a small amount of sugar is permitted, in checking at the supermarket we found none that contained any sugar. On the other hand, cranberry-juice cocktail, as it is called, is a juice drink. Under current government regulations, beverages falling into this category of juice drinks may contain anywhere from 35 percent to 60 percent fruit juice. In addition to sweeteners, the other major ingredient is water.
Since the nutrition information label uses a six-ounce portion, we will use that as our basis of comparison. A serving of cranberry-juice cocktail provides about 110 calories. Just how much Vitamin C it contains will depend on how much the manufacturer has added. We found that it varied between 50 percent to 100 percent of the U.S. RDA, or between 30 milligrams and 60 milligrams per serving. Other differences between the two brands were small. The label on one indicated that it also provided 6 percent of the day's riboflavin and 2 percent of the iron, while the other contained less than 2 percent of each of these nutrients.
By comparison, a serving of orange juice made from frozen concentrate has 85 calories, and more than 100 percent of the U.S. RDA for Vitamin C. It is also a very good source of potassium. This is especially important to individuals taking diuretics, which result in the loss of that mineral along with sodium.
Q. I seem to remember reading in your column that there is a government office one can call with questions about safe handling of meat and poultry products. I thought I had saved the information, but am unable to find it. Can you provide it one more time?
A. It is now easier than ever for consumers to get this type of assistance. Since July 1, the telephone number for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA has been toll-free. You can call 800-535-4555 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time with questions not only about the safety and wholesomeness of meat and poultry products, but also about any other issues with which FSIS is involved. These include inspection, labeling, additives and residues.
Q. The other day we had dinner at a friend's house. She served mashed parsnips, seasoned with a little margarine, salt, pepper and nutmeg. I was delighted to find that my children liked them, since the number of winter vegetables they will agree to eat is so limited. Can you tell me about their nutritional value?
A. A half-cup serving of mashed parsnips has about 80 calories, nearly all of them from carbohydrate. It would also provide about 10 percent of the day's Vitamin C and folic acid, as well as small amounts of a number of other B vitamins. And it is a good source of fiber.
While parsnips can hardly be regarded as highly nutritious, physicians in medieval times believed them to have remarkable powers, including an ability to cure toothaches, treat stomachache and even to keep snakes away. The root is known to have been a dietary staple during the Middle Ages and an especially important food during Lent and on other fast days, but its origin remains a mystery.