Montana State University

Food expert suggests that gift buyers go “chopping”

December 15, 2004 -- by the MSU News Service

Caption: Cutting boards are a low-tech kitchen gadget that can encourage users to eat more fruit and vegetables, says Lynn Paul, MSU Extension Food and Nutrition specialist. (photo by Scott Bauer courtesy   High-Res Available

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A simple kitchen gadget can help in preparing meals and in making sure your food remains safe to eat, says Lynn Paul, a food and nutrition specialist with Montana State University Extension.

One low-tech kitchen gadget, a small cutting board used just for cutting up fruits and vegetables, is among tips Paul suggests for healthful holiday gifts.

"It's so much easier to grab a small cutting board to chop up tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms or peppers for your salad than to muscle around a large, heavy cutting board," says Paul. Besides, she says, "You never can find enough counter space."

Chopped vegetables make easy and colorful side dishes, and the handier they are to chop, the more likely that people will make an enjoyable habit of eating them.

Small cutting boards, which make useful stocking stuffers, range from $2 to $15.

A second cutting board can also help out with the growing concern about food safety, says Paul, who has developed several educational programs to teach Montanans how to reduce the risks of foodborne illness. Using one board exclusively for meats and a second board just for fruits and vegetables can help eliminate cross contamination by bacteria found in foods.

A good cutting board is smooth, durable, nonabsorbent and easy to clean. Plastic or hard wood that is free of cracks and grooves that can harbor bacteria can be washed and sanitized effectively, says Paul. She recommends cleaning and sanitizing cutting boards after use for raw meat, poultry or seafood. Scrubbing with hot water and soap and sanitizing in the dishwasher or with a rinse of 1 tablespoon bleach per gallon of water should do the trick. It's handy to keep a spray bottle full of diluted bleach rinse by the sink, says Paul.

Knives are another useful gift that can result in health benefits. One good knife can mean the difference between making the experience of chopping up vegetables enjoyable or turning it into a chore, says Paul. A quality knife can cost from $15 to $50 but can be well worth the investment if you, your family and friends end up eating more healthy fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and other yummy foods.

Ergonomic kitchen utensils are another holiday gift idea. A vegetable or fruit peeler is a good example of how a well-designed tool can make all the difference in the world. Paul suggests looking for new improved alternatives to the skinny stainless steel vegetable/fruit peelers that nearly everyone knows for a size and shape that is more comfortable. Ergonomic utensils ultimately reduce the risk of cutting yourself and make tasks easier. They usually have a larger, wider handle with padding to help distribute the force of your grip. The handle may be flared or shaped differently to help position your wrists and arms in a more natural position.

Finally, recipes and cooking tips make fun add-ons for kitchen-related gifts. MSU Extension's Food and Nutrition specialists guide creative cooks to recipe links via their Web site at (see "Quick, Healthy, Thrifty Meals, Recipes, Shopping" )

More recipes are available online via MSU Extension's Food Stamp Nutrition Education and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education programs' Web site at

Paul and other food and nutrition specialists also publish free how-to fact sheets about food preparation topics from jams to sauerkraut. The fact sheets are available through county and reservation MSU Extension offices or at

Contact: Lynn Paul at 994-5702 or