Tag Archives: Get Cooking

Healthy Snacks on the Go

Convenience stores are stocked with lots of quick and easy sweet treats. While it might be tempting to grab a surgery snack when you’re in a hurry, you won’t get much nutrition from it. The high sugar content in some processed sweets or candy can actually make you more hungry and even drain your energy. 

So, how can you avoid the dreaded sugar crash? Choose snack options that are less processed and don’t include artificial sugars or salt. Keep reading for healthy snack ideas for your next quick trip to the grocery store or when you’re in the car and on the go.

Before You Buy

Think about what you want from your snack. Healthy snacks may seem boring or might not be exactly what you are craving. When you need a little pick-me-up, more energy, or something filling and nutritious, we have a few tips to keep in mind before you walk through the aisles:

Snacks that crunch keep the munchies away

Fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, veggies, rice cakes, or popcorn (a good-for-you whole grain) are all options that provide a nice dose of fiber and help satisfy your cravings.

Rethink your drink

Soda and energy drinks can contain tons of sugar and artificial flavors and colors that work against your healthy intentions. Plain or sparkling water with a twist of fruit can quench your thirst and satisfy your craving for bubbles. Unsweetened tea or coffee will give you a small dose of caffeine to help give you a short energy boost. Go easy on fruit and vegetable juice—choose options that are 100% juice and grab smaller sizes to avoid sugar overload.

Hunger busters

There are plenty of nutritious snack options that can fill you up like hummus or peanut or other nut butters. Pair with carrots, celery, snow peas, tomatoes, or pretzels for a satisfying snack. Crackers with cheese, tuna or salmon are also great options to curb your hunger. Low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fruit or fruit and veggie smoothies are a refreshing and filling option—just watch the sugar content and enjoy in smaller doses!

Sweet-tooth tested

Sometimes we just need a sweet treat. Before you reach for the candy bar try a handful of dried fruit or single-serving of canned fruit in natural juice or light syrup. If a cookie, cupcake, or baked treat is what you are craving, limit the number you eat and add a side of fresh fruit or nuts for a little extra dose of fiber and some crunch.

On-the-Go Snack Shortlist

Here are a few great go-to snacks you can find in most grocery stores and even in many convenience stores. When you pre-plan and try to balance your snack cravings with healthy options you will feel more satisfied. And as a bonus, you’ll get the nutritional benefits too!

Jerky or Meat Sticks

Jerky and meat sticks are easy to grab when you’re headed out the door—and they travel easily! Just three ounces of beef, chicken, or turkey jerky can give you a protein boost of over 25 grams. Pair it with some fruit or cheese and you have a tasty and filling snack that will keep the munchies at bay.

Tip: Be sure to choose low-sodium options. Varieties with lots of spices can contain hidden salt and sugar.

Roasted Chickpeas, Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds

Roasted chickpeas or pumpkin seeds are a fun, crunchy, bite-sized snack that are tasty and packed with protein and fiber which will help you feel fuller longer. They’re also gluten-free and full of healthy fats for energy and brain health! Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral we often don’t get enough of and helps with hydration and bowel and brain health.

Tip: If you can’t find roasted chickpeas in the store—make your own! Drain a can or two, spread them on a clean kitchen towel and gently dry them with a paper towel. Transfer to a baking sheet, spread evenly, drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast at 425-degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Mixed Nuts

Mixed nuts often include peanuts, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and pecans and are a great source of protein. Be careful not to confuse mixed nuts with trail mix. Trail mixes can have high sugar content and added artificial ingredients. Your best nutritional bet is to go with the simple nut and dried fruit combinations—just as nature intended!

Tip: Watch out for varieties with extra flavorings or heavy amounts of sweetened ingredients like candy-coated nuts or chocolate. A little is okay, but short and simple ingredient lists are always better!

Celery or Carrots with Peanut or Almond Butter

This combination is great for sneaking in veggies without feeling like you’re missing out on a treat. Peanut or other nut butters add a nice little dose of protein. Pop on a few dried raisins or cranberries for a little extra zing!

Storage Tip: Save used baby food jars and use them as storage containers. It’s the perfect size to store snack-sized peanut butter portions. Then dip your celery without leaving a mess behind!

Mandarin Oranges

Cute little mandarin oranges are perfect for throwing in a bag of any kind as their peel will protect the delicious fruit inside. Plus, these little sweeties are packed with beta-carotene. Your body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A which helps with growth and development, and vision, and boosts your immune system! 

Serving Suggestion: pair a mandarin orange with a handful of nuts to satisfy the salty-sweet craving. Or have them with a slice of cheese or cheese stick for a fill-you-up snack.

String Cheese

The perfect snack that’s low on calories and full of protein. Take a bite with an apple slice, a grape or a cocktail tomato for a fresh flavor burst, added fiber, and a dose of vitamin C.

Remember: Make sure to store string cheese in a lunch box with an ice pack so it can remain cold.

Apple Slices

The old saying of “an apple a day” still rings true. Apples are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Their high fiber and low-calorie content can make them a weight-loss- friendly food. Whole or sliced varieties are easy to find all year round.

Tip: Need to slice ahead of time? Brush 100% lemon juice on the apple slices to keep them from turning brown. 


Hummus is a high-protein option and a great replacement for ranch dressing. You can find it in single-serve containers, often with pretzels. Add a few carrots, celery, or some vitamin-packed bell pepper slices and you’ve got a crunchy, tasty, and filling treat that’s a healthy alternative to potato chips.

Tip: Cut bell peppers (also called sweet peppers) into slices or chunks for easy access when traveling. Or grab a bag of mini-peppers for bite-size snacks. Bell peppers are a great source of fiber and vitamin C to keep your immune and digestive systems running smoothly!

Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs are a nutrient-dense, protein-packed snack that’s under 100 calories! When served with a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or a little cheese—it can almost feel like a quick and easy meal. 

Serving Suggestion: Place eggs in saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring water to a rolling boil. Turn heat off, cover the pan, and let sit for 15 minutes. Run eggs under cold water and store for 4-5 days. If you peel them they should be eaten within a day or two. Make sure to store eggs in a lunch box with an ice pack so they can remain cold. 

Rice Cakes

Rice cakes can satisfy your crunchy cravings and are a good source of protein and manganese (especially brown rice versions). Stick with plain unflavored variations and top with your favorite peanut or nut butter and berries for a delicious treat!

Tip: Use caution with flavored rice cakes like chocolate, caramel corn or white cheddar. They can contain added ingredients that bump up the sugar and salt content. 

Whole-Grain Crackers and Tuna

Tuna’s list of nutritional benefits is long. It’s heart-healthy, reduces blood-pressure, boosts the immune system and circulation, contains tons of antioxidants, helps strengthen your bones, improves your skin, and is good for your eyes. Plus it’s a yummy and filling snack when you need more than a treat but don’t have time for a full meal.

Tip: Single-serve canned or tuna in pouches make this snack easier and more accessible when you’re on the go.

Processed sugary snacks aren’t your only option while on the go. Take the time to look for healthier options at the convenience store or when you’re shopping in a hurry. Grab and go with the healthier snacks to avoid a sugar crash. With a little bit more planning, you can make snack choices that lead to long-term healthy habits!

Sources: Eat This, Not That!, American Heart Association

Are Frozen and Canned Produce Just as Healthy as Fresh Produce?

Yikes! Americans aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables. An easy way to keep your kitchen stocked with healthy meal options is to add frozen and canned produce to your pantry. This can also ensure you always have nutritious options available—on a budget!

A question we often hear is, “Are frozen and canned foods as healthy as fresh produce?” The short answer: yes!

Frozen and canned products have a longer shelf life than fresh produce, are just as tasty, and can be used in many ways. The nutritional content doesn’t change much with frozen and canned produce, but they may cook a little differently because the water content changes.

Let’s compare the difference between fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Produce

The advantage to fresh produce is that you can cook and eat the produce any way you like best! You can eat them raw (fresh), baked, sautéed, steamed or even blended in a smoothie. Plus, fresh produce is more portable—making easy snacking a breeze!

TIP! Try new-to-you fresh produce according to what’s in season! This will ensure you’re always getting a wide range of yummy nutrients all year long.

Shelf Life:

The shelf life for fresh produce can be tricky to calculate. It varies for each produce item and depends on if it’s stored properly. There are guides to help you determine the best time to enjoy fresh produce and how and where to store fresh foods.

Frozen Produce

Is it Nutritious?

Yes! Frozen fruits and vegetables are packed at peak freshness. This means all the nutrients are locked in at the time of freezing and packaging.

Shelf Life:

  • Frozen vegetables should be eaten within 8 months of purchase.
  • Frozen fruit should be eaten within 12 months of purchase (4–6 months for citrus fruits).

Canned Produce

Is it Nutritious?

Yes! Canning fruits and vegetables locks in the nutrients at the peak of freshness—or at the time of canning, if you’re canning yourself. Canning produce can even make the nutrients easier for your body to absorb the nutrients. This is the case with canned beans and tomatoes. Plus, canned produce can help families who are on a budget!

Shelf Life

  • High acidic foods like tomatoes are best within 18 months
  • Low acidic foods like meat or vegetables are best within 2–5 years
  • Home-canned foods should be used within 1 year

For healthier options, make sure to choose canned fruit that is stored in 100% juice. Avoid options canned in light or heavy syrup—that’s code for extra sugar!

Safety tip! Never eat food from cans that are leaking, bulging, badly dented, have a foul odor, or spurt liquid when opening. This can be a sign of a bacteria that causes botulism, which can make you extremely sick.

Remember—fruit and vegetables are always a good idea. Include fruits and vegetables in your diet, whether they are fresh, frozen, or canned! Don’t be afraid to try something new and change up what you’re eating day-to-day. The more variety the better your chance of getting all the nutrients you need!

Sources: Have a Plant, Have a Plant, USDA, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association

Fresh, Frozen and Canned ALL Count

Eat 5 a day by filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables each meal.


Fresh fruits and vegetables don’t have to be expensive if you buy them in season and many are in season year round. Learn more at South Dakota Harvest of the Month.


Frozen fruits and vegetables are packed and frozen within hours of harvest, so they don’t lose their flavor or nutritional value. Try steaming vegetables in the microwave or stovetop rather than boiling to keep in more nutrients.


Canned fruits and vegetables often get a bad rap but they are still nutritious. Choose 100% fruit juice with no added sugar and vegetables with no salt added. Remember to drain the water, juice or syrup and rinse with water to help remove some of the extra sugar and salt.

Have You had Your 5 Today?

2 fruits + 3 vegetables are ideal for a balanced diet!

Promoting fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables

Download images here.

Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are a wonderful part of summer that give us the opportunity to enjoy fresh, local produce and meet the people who grow it! Shopping at a farmers market is a little different than the grocery store. Here are some tips to make your trip successful and fun:

  1. Plan ahead. Bring a list of what foods you need and scope out the market’s website or event guide to give you an idea of what is offered.
  2. Bring your own bag. Having a bag that can go on your shoulder will help keep your hands free. Or try a backpack!
  3. Get to know your local farmers. Take this opportunity to meet your local farmers and producers in a relaxed setting. Use this time to have a conversation with the people responsible for growing or making your food. Farmers enjoy getting to know you and appreciate your interest in their crops.
  4. Try something new and ask questions. Challenge yourself to try at least one new food item. Not sure how to incorporate that purple potato into a dish your family would like? Ask the individuals selling the foods; they are a wealth of knowledge for various ideas of how to use their food as ingredients in your recipes. Some even have recipes available for you to take home.
  5. Follow the MyPlate method. Most farmers markets offer a wide variety of foods: most are delicious and nutritious, but some are high in calories. When choosing foods, remember the USDA’s MyPlate method which emphasizes making half your plate fruits and vegetables, and the rest of your plate with whole grains and lean protein.
  6. Make a farm-to-table meal. Now, use a medley of what you gathered at the farmers market to prepare your meal.

    Don’t forget to bring the kids! A trip to the farmers market can be a perfect way to introduce your family to new foods while learning where our food comes from. Get your child excited about what new foods will be there and ask your child what new things they would like to try.

    Find a farmers market in your area. And if you live in the Black Hills there is a website just for you!

    Find and enjoy a farmers market this summer and fall!

    Sources:  Farmers Markets: Bringing the Farm to Table,  Be a Savvy Farmers Market ShopperSDSU Extension

    15 Tips for Healthy Cooking at Home

    Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. There are many ways to make small changes toward a healthier eating style.

    Simple swaps can make at-home dishes healthier without sacrificing flavor:

    1. Use heart-healthy canola, olive or peanut oil instead of solid fats.
    2. Use sharp, reduced-fat cheese and low-fat milk in your macaroni and cheese.
    3. Sweeten your desserts with fruit puree or apple sauce instead of sugar.
    4. Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour in muffins.
    5. Opt for brown rice instead of white rice in your red beans and rice or jambalaya.
    6. Cut the fat in potato salad by substituting half of the mayonnaise with plain non-fat Greek yogurt.
    7. Liven up your family meals by trying new spices.
    8. Use smoked paprika or a dash of smoked salt to add the smoked flavor that you would normally get from ham, bacon or salt pork.
    9. Consider using salt-free herb blends to lower the salt in your foods.
    10. Experiment with different flavors by adding apple cider or rice vinegar to your greens.
    11. Marinate your chicken in rosemary and lemon juice before grilling.
    12. Add a little brown sugar and vanilla to make a lower-calorie version of candied yams.
    13. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
    14. Include protein, such as lean meat, poultry, seafood or beans, and whole grains on the other half of your plate.
    15. With each meal, add calcium-rich foods such as fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages.

    And remember, healthy eating styles can be adapted to fit the foods of all cultures. Find out more about ethnic foods for a healthy plate at EatRight.org.

    Source: ChooseMyPlate.gov

    9 Tips to Make Healthier Holiday Choices

    The holidays are often filled with time-honored traditions that include some of our favorite meals and foods. As you celebrate, think of little changes you can make this holiday season to create healthier meals and active days.

    1. Enjoy all the food groups at your celebration
      Prepare whole-grain crackers with hummus as an appetizer; add unsalted nuts and black beans to a green-leaf salad; include fresh fruit at the dessert table; use low-fat milk instead of heavy cream in your casseroles. Share healthier options during your holiday meal.
    2. Make sure your protein is lean
      Turkey; roast beef; fresh ham; beans; and some types of fish, such as cod or flounder, are lean protein choices. Trim fat when cooking meats. Go easy on the sauces and gravies ― they can be high in saturated fat and sodium.
    3. Cheers to good health
      Quench your thirst with low-calorie options. Drink water with lemon or lime slices. Offer seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.
    4. Bake healthier
      Use recipes with unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter. Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half. Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt.
    5. Tweak the sweet
      For dessert, try baked apples with cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar instead of apple pie. Invite your guests to make their own parfait with colorful sliced fruit and low-fat yogurt.
    6. Be the life of the party
      Laugh, mingle, dance, and play games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others.
    7. Make exercise a part of the fun
      Make being active part of your holiday tradition. Have fun walking and talking with family and friends after a holiday meal. Give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits such as workout DVDs, running shoes, and reusable water bottles.
    8. Enjoy leftovers
      Create delicious new meals with your leftovers. Add turkey to soups or salads. Use extra veggies in omelets, sandwiches, or stews. The possibilities are endless!
    9. Give to others
      Spend time providing foods or preparing meals for those who may need a little help. Give food to a local food bank or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter during the holiday season.

    Source: Choose My Plate

    Planning your Thanksgiving Feast!

    There are many things to think about when planning your Thanksgiving meal: finding healthy recipes, food safety, dealing with picky eaters, portion control, and what to do with all those leftovers! Fortunately, this article will help you create a healthy, balanced, and safe Thanksgiving meal the whole family will enjoy!

    First let’s talk about FOOD SAFETY. Before we start planning, preparing, and serving, let’s review a few of the main food safety guidelines.
    • Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
    • Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water.
    • There are only 3 safe ways to thaw meat: refrigerate for slow safe thawing, cold water submersion and defrost in the microwave.
      • Make sure your turkey has plenty of time to safely thaw in the refrigerator before the big meal! According to the USDA, you should allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds. So if your turkey weighs 12 pounds, it should chill in the refrigerator for 72 hours.
    • Always check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
      • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F.
      • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160°F.
      • Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F.
    • Hot food should be held at 140°F or warmer.
    • Cold food should be held at 40°F or colder.
    • When serving food at a buffet, keep food hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Keep food cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice or use small serving trays and replace them often.
    • Discard any food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
    • Place food into shallow containers and immediately put in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling.
    • Use cooked leftovers within 4 days and reheat all leftovers to 165°F.
    Now let’s plan the THANKSGIVING MENU. Try these recipes for traditional flavors and healthy ingredients that will leave you feeling satisfied but not “stuffed”!
    You have planned the perfect feast, but you have some PICKY EATERS in your family. Here are some tips for appeasing picky eaters. 
    • Choose at least one food you know your child will like. Whether Thanksgiving will be served at your house or if you will be going to someone else’s home to celebrate, make sure to offer or bring at least one food that you know your child will like. This way, your child is guaranteed to eat something during the meal.
    • Engage your child in meal planning. You can tell your child about any foods you are definitely planning to include (i.e., turkey as a protein and stuffing as a grain), but ask if he or she has ideas for the other food groups. For example, “What kind of vegetable do you think we should include? How about a fruit?”
    • Engage your child in meal prep. Ask your toddler to help clean the vegetables, your school-aged child to help mash the potatoes, or your teenager to boil the cranberries. When kids help cook food, they often sample what they are preparing, and are more likely to eat their masterpieces later.
    • Use food bridges. Once a food is accepted, find similarly colored, flavored, or textured “food bridges” to expand the variety of foods your child will eat. For example, if your child likes pumpkin pie, try including mashed sweet potatoes on his or her Thanksgiving plate.
    • Make it look, smell and taste delicious. Many times kids think that they won’t like a food before they actually try it. Do this by adding fragrant ingredients such a nutmeg and cinnamon to cooked apples—for example—or preparing a veggie tray with the vegetables arranged in the shape of a turkey.
    • Keep the mealtime relaxing and enjoyable. Focus on enjoying your time together celebrating this day of gratitude. Know you have prepared a balanced meal and taken many efforts to engage your children in the process—increasing the chances of there being at least one food they will like. You have done your job. Try not to worry if and what your child is eating.
    Time to Eat! PORTION CONTROL during the holidays has less to do with limiting yourself to a certain amount but rather listening to our bodies’ fullness signals. Our bodies often tell us when to stop we just don’t listen! 
    • Don’t go to the table starving. This means don’t skip meals. Skipping meals seems like a nice way to reduce the amount of calories you consume but is likely to make you eat more food faster when you finally do eat.
    • Give yourself permission to eat the foods you like. It is perfectly healthy to come to the table hungry and eat until you are full—“until you are full” being the operative phrase. Eating until we are full does not mean eating until we are sick.
    • Eat slowly and savor your food. Don’t be too quick to scarf down your food; learn to savor every bite.
    • Stop when you are full, not past-full. Pay close attention to how you feel while eating. Choose to slow down and stop eating when you feel you are getting full. This may even mean waiting a few minutes to see how you feel before finishing your plate or getting second helpings.
    What do we do with all these LEFTOVERS? Thanksgiving leftovers can be more than cold turkey sandwiches and warmed up casserole dishes. Check out these recipes with different flavors to keep your taste buds guessing.

    Sources: USDA Food Safety and Inspection ServicesAmerican Academy of Pediatrics

    Avocados Are Awesome!

    There are lots of reasons avocados are so popular these days. Our guacamole certainly wouldn’t be the same, but they are also becoming a regular ingredient in salads, on sandwiches, as toast toppers, and have even been making consistent appearances in smoothies and brownies.

    Part of the reason an avocado craze is sweeping the nation has to do with the fruit’s buttery rich flavor and versatile texture, and part of it has to do with the incredible nutrition that can be found beneath that green-ish tinged, soft leather-like skin.
    For example:

    • One ounce of avocado contains a pile of vitamins and minerals like C, B6, E, K, and folate, to name just a few, as well as a heaping helping of phytonutrients which help your body prevent disease and infection.
    • Avocados are packed with monosaturated fats – the GOOD fat – the kind of fat that is essential for growing kids and pretty darn good for the rest of us too.
    • Cholesterol free… naturally.
    • Avocados are known as a “nutrient booster” because they help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods eaten at the same time.

    And, if that wasn’t enough, here are a few more reasons avocados steal the show in the kitchen and are such a family favorite:

    • The soft, creamy texture makes them a super nutritious first food for babies.
    • Adding a little avocado is an easy way to add color to your plate and nutrition to your diet.
    • They complement all kinds of cooking styles – from Asian and Mexican, to fancy French and All-American backyard feel-good recipes.
    • So good at so many things: avocados can be used as a main ingredient, a side, a spread, or mixed with everything from cooked whole-grains and salads, to breakfast smoothies and desserts.
    • Avocados pair well with sweet, savory, or spicy flavors.
    • Bake them, fry them, grill them or just enjoy them raw.
    • Never out of season, avocados are available all year round!

    Avocados are a perfect after-school or on-the-go snack:

    • Arm those kids with a spoon and touch of their favorite seasoning: salt, soy sauce, hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, or a squeeze of lime or lemon.
    • For a heartier snack stuff your avocado with tuna, seafood, turkey, chicken, or cranberry salad, or even cheese, tropical fruit, pesto or salsa.
    • Throw a few chunks on a pretzel stick with some cheese and fruit.
    • Mash and serve with fresh veggies.

    They can also be a late-night-craving buster… slightly mashed on toast and topped with a fresh slice of tomato or blended with a handful of berries, 1/2 a banana, and a touch of honey or a splash of agave.

    Clearly, this magical fruit needs to be on your grocery list immediately! In the meantime, here are a couple of places to check for fun kid-friendly recipes and even more reasons to confirm the awesomeness of the avocado: California Avocados, Fruit & Veggies More Matters

    Sources: California Avocados, Fruit & Veggies More Matters

    Tips for Cooking Healthier at Home During National Nutrition Month®!

    National Nutrition Month® is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign, celebrated each year during the month of March, focuses on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

    There are many ways to make small changes toward a healthier eating style. Simple swaps can make dishes healthier without sacrificing flavor:

    • Use heart-healthy canola, olive or peanut oil instead of solid fats.
    • Use sharp, reduced-fat cheese and low-fat milk in your macaroni and cheese.
    • Sweeten your desserts with fruit puree or apple sauce instead of sugar.
    • Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour in muffins.
    • Opt for brown rice instead of white rice in your red beans and rice or jambalaya.
    • Cut the fat in potato salad by substituting half of the mayonnaise with plain non-fat Greek yogurt.
    • Liven up your family meals by trying new spices.
    • Use smoked paprika or a dash of smoked salt to add the smoked flavor that you would normally get from ham, bacon or salt pork.
    • Consider using salt-free herb blends to lower the salt in your foods.
    • Experiment with different flavors by adding apple cider or rice vinegar to your greens.
    • Marinate your chicken in rosemary and lemon juice before grilling.
    • Add a little brown sugar and vanilla to make a lower-calorie version of candied yams.

    Follow these Healthy Plate guidelines:

    • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
    • Include protein, such as lean meat, poultry, seafood or beans, and whole grains on the other half of your plate.
    • With each meal, add calcium-rich foods such as fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages.

    And remember, healthy eating styles can be adapted to fit the foods of all cultures.

    Find out more about ethnic foods for a healthy plate at EatRight.org

    Sources: EatRight.org; EatRight.org

    Raising Healthy Eaters in the New Year

    Ring in a healthy new year by teaching kids the importance of food, nutrition and eating skills:

    Food to fuel busy, successful lives;
    Nutrition to nourish strong bodies and smart brains; and
    Eating skills to enjoy the social aspect of meals with family and friends.

    As with any part of raising children, no one does a perfect job with nutrition — not even nutrition professionals. As a parent, grandparent or adult caregiver, you can help to raise healthy eaters during these critical years by doing your best to:

    • Serve regular, balanced meals and snacks with a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
    • Provide calm, pleasant meal times where adults and children can talk together.
    • Allow children to use their internal signals to decide how much and what to eat.
    • Explore a variety of flavors and foods from different cultures and cuisines.
    • Share an appreciation for healthful food, lovingly prepared and shared with others.
    • Make simple food safety, such as washing hands, part of every eating occasion.
    • Teach basic skills for making positive food choices away from home.
    • Find credible food and nutrition resources when you don’t know the answer.

    While this may seem like an intimidating to-do list, two family habits go a long way to making all this happen: regular family meals and involving kids in nutrition from the ground up.

    1. Make Family Meal Times a Priority
    Sometimes a very simple act can have important, long-lasting benefits. According to parenting and health experts, that is exactly the case with family meal times. Eating and talking together helps to:

    • Foster family unity.
    • Prevent behavior problems at home and school.
    • Enhance academic success.
    • Improve nutrition.
    • Promote healthy weight for kids.

    With that impressive list of benefits, it’s worth making the time and effort to enjoy more family meal times each week. Look for easy ways to add just one family meal to the schedule. If evenings seem too hectic for family dinners, set aside time for a weekend breakfast or lunch. After a month or two of this new pattern, you can add another family meal each week. Before you know it, you will be eating together on most days.

    2. Get Kids Involved in Nutrition
    This one is fun for everyone and it can happen anywhere — your kitchen, the grocery store or a community garden. Every trip through the supermarket can be a nutrition lesson. Kids can learn to categorize food into groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, milk foods and meat/beans. They can choose new foods that they want to try, including picking out a new fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit each trip. As children get older, they can help plan the menu at home and then pick out the foods to match the menu items while shopping.

    Nutrition is just one of many reasons to have a garden. The process of planting, watching over and harvesting a garden provides daily opportunities for children to learn valuable lessons and enjoy physical activity, while reaping the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

    Source: Article originally published by Dayle Hayes, MS, RD on December 28, 2015 at www.eatright.org.

    Healthy Eating: 101

    You know that you should eat right in order to stay healthy. But with all of the fad diets like gluten-free, ketogenic, paleo, raw foods, etc., it is hard to know what is actually considered healthy. It seems as if the term “healthy eating” is always changing.

    Here are some guidelines to follow that will never go out of style:

    Know your food groups

    Knowing and understanding the different food groups will help you get the nutritious foods your body needs. Always remember…a healthy diet will never fully eliminate an entire food group. Check out Choose MyPlate for more information on each food group and to determine where your favorite foods fall.

    • Grains. Foods made from wheat, rye, rice, oats, cornmeal, or barley. These foods don’t only include bread and pasta, but also cereal, rice, grits, tortillas, and popcorn. Often times, people eat more grains than they need. When looking for grain foods, choose those whose first ingredient says “whole grains.” This means the grain has not been processed.
    • Vegetables. Veggies come in a wide variety of colors and flavors, and are packed full of nutrients. They are also naturally low in calories. Starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes may be higher in carbohydrates and therefore higher in calories than other vegetables. This does not mean that you have to stay away from starchy vegetables though. They provide a good source of energy and nutrients.
    • Fruits. Fruit is another food that comes in many different colors and flavors, making them high in nutrients. Fruit is full of fiber, helping to promote digestive regularity. Fruit is a great sweet and low-calorie treat that can replace a candy bar or dessert as a more nutritious option.
    • Protein. Similar to grains, people often eat more protein than they need. This may result in higher caloric intake. Rather than cutting calories out of other food groups, such as fruits and vegetables that are high in nutrients, try eating more lean meats such as chicken or turkey, and swap seafood, such as shrimp or salmon, for meat at least a couple of times per week.
    • Dairy. Many adults are not getting as much dairy as they should. In order to keep your heart healthy, aim for low-fat or fat-free dairy choices. Choosing fat-fee or low-fat yogurt and milk rather than cheese can give you added vitamins and minerals and less fat and sodium.
    • Oils. This food group is higher in calories, but still has many health benefits due to the nutrients and vitamin E found in oils. Choose oils over solid fats, such as butter, when cooking. Some healthy sources of oils include avocados, olives, and peanut butter. Remember: a little goes a long way. Try to limit your intake of oils.
    • Solid Fats and Added Sugars. Also known as SoFAS. Added sugars are just added calories without more nutrients. Choosing foods throughout the day that are low in fat and without added sugar could leave you with some extra calories left over each day.

    Portion size versus serving size

    A “serving” is the amount of food recommended to eat. A “portion” is the amount of food you choose to eat at any one time – which may be more or less than a serving. Here’s a quick guide to food portion sizes using everyday objects.

    Small Stamp = 1 teaspoon
    9-Volt Battery = 1 tablespoon
    Golf Ball = 2 tablespoons
    Deck of Cards = 3 ounces
    Computer Mouse = 1/2 cup
    Baseball = 1 cup

    To see how much you are actually eating, pour your cereal into a regular bowl and then into a measuring cup. Do the same with you glasses, cups and plates. Portion size matters!

    Know your macronutrients

    These are substances required in large amount by the body in order to function properly.

    Proteins. Proteins are the body’s building blocks since they repair your tissues, fight off infection, and extra protein can be used for energy. Proteins are made up on amino acids. Essential amino acids are the type of amino acids that the body cannot make itself and therefore must be regularly consumed in food. Protein can be found in many foods ranging from lean meat, seafood, and eggs, to beans, peas, soy, and even dairy products. Protein that comes from plant-based sources tends to be lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber and nutrients.

    Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates or carbs are the body’s main source of energy. They can be categorized into simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits, veggies, dairy products, and sweeteners such as sugar, honey, and syrup. Complex carbohydrates are found in breads, cereals, pasta, rice, beans, peas, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn. Complex carbs tend to be higher in fiber as well which can prevent stomach and intestinal problems. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate the body cannot digest. It is found it fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Most fiber we eat is insoluble and cannot be digested—this is the type of fiber that promotes healthy digestive environments and elimination of waste. It can also make us feel fuller. Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that can help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol.

    Fats. Fats are another source of energy and have the ability to make you feel satisfied after eating. Some oils include butter, shortening, and margarine. Foods such as mayonnaise, salad dressing, and sour cream are also high in fats. Seeds, nuts, avocado, and coconut are plant-based sources of fats. There are different categories of fats. As a general rule, try to get more of your fats from unsaturated fat like mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats. These types of fats are liquid at room temperature and are more heart-healthy compared to saturated fats and trans fats which are solid at room temperature. Omega fatty acids are the only type of fats that the body cannot make on its own. Humans need Omega 3 and Omega 6 to make cell membranes and produce many hormones. They can also be capable of reducing chronic inflammation and preventing heart disease. They are added to some foods but occur naturally in many oils—especially fish oils.

    Learn more at Important Nutrients to Know: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat

    Know your micronutrients

    These are substances required in smaller amounts but are still equally important.

    Vitamins. Vitamins are molecules that our bodies cannot make, but need for growth and maintenance. Vitamins are larger molecules than minerals. They are either fat-soluble (D, E, A, and K) or water-soluble (B Vitamins, and C). Fat-soluble vitamins require fat for them to be properly used by the body and can be stored for later use. Water-soluble vitamins do not require additional nutrients to function and will not be stored in the body. If you eat or drink more Vitamin C than your body needs, it will be excreted in your urine. Vitamins are most present in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts; but some are also found in meats and dairy. It is not healthy to have too little or too much. Keep that in mind if you are taking dietary supplements including multi-vitamins. Dietary supplements also have the potential to interfere with certain medications.

    Minerals. Minerals are small molecules that usually enter the body in combination with another atom and assist in many bodily functions. Examples include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphate, sulfate, magnesium, and iron. The body cannot make its own minerals but they can be found in foods such as dairy, meat, nuts, fruit, and vegetables. Not all foods have the same types and amounts of minerals. Just like vitamins, it is not healthy to have too little or too many minerals.

    Learn more at Important Nutrients to Know: Vitamins and Minerals

    Think about what you drink

    Your three best options for healthy drinks are water, low-fat or fat-free milk, and 100% juice. Milk and 100% fruit or vegetable juice only contain natural sugar, no added sugar and should contribute to the recommended daily intake of fruit, vegetables, and dairy as noted previously. Water is a daily staple. Drink water every day! But believe it or not, there is not an exact recommendation for the amount of water you should drink in a day. Instead, let your thirst guide you. There are general recommendations for water intake from both food and drinks. Women should get approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) each day, and men approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of total water daily. About 80% of your total water intake comes from drinking water and other beverages — including caffeinated beverages — and the other 20% is derived from food. Learn more about water at Important Nutrients to Know: Water.

    Cut back on drinks with added sugar. Added sugar can be found in juice that is not 100%, regular pop/soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and thousands of other beverages that are on the market today. Sports drinks can be appropriate for athletes engaged in moderate- to high-intensity exercise that lasts an hour or longer to replace electrolytes, but they still contain a large amount of added sugar.

    Alcohol should always be in moderation. One drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and only for adults of legal drinking age.

    Health benefits of eating a balanced diet

    Eating a balanced diet can help you physically and emotionally. A well-balanced diet can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Consuming foods with lots of fiber such as nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help your heart work efficiently, reducing your risk of heart disease. Furthermore, eating a balanced diet will help to protect you from diabetes, especially the foods that are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like avocados, olive oil, and nuts and seeds. Eating foods rich in B vitamins can reduce homocysteine levels which may reduce risk of developing dementia. Other brain functions that can be increased from eating foods high in omega 3’s include increased memory and mood as well as reduced risk of depression, schizophrenia, and mood disorders. Consuming fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants can help to reduce risk of certain cancers. Eating healthy foods at regular intervals can also help to boost and maintain energy levels.

    There are so many benefits of healthy eating. Don’t wait, start today!

    Sources: National Institute on Aging, Choose MyPlate, Michigan State University Extension, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Hydrate Right

    Coconut Oil – Healthy or Unhealthy?

    Coconut oil is a hot topic right now with daily news headlines claiming everything from weight loss to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, making people intrigued but also confused. So is it healthy or unhealthy? Here are some facts about coconut oil.

    Where Does Coconut Oil Come From?

    There are 3 main types of coconut oil:

    • Virgin or Unrefined – extracted from the fruit of fresh mature coconuts without using high temperatures or chemicals.
    • Refined – made from dried coconut meat that’s often chemically bleached and deodorized.
    • Partially Hydrogenated – further processed and transforms some of the unsaturated fats (the good fats) into trans fats (the bad fat).

    Nutritional Properties of Coconut Oil

    Coconut oil that you find in your run of the mill supermarket or at the local health food store, no matter the type, is high in saturated fat–ranging between 82-92%! In fact, it’s considered a solid fat. One tablespoon of coconut oil adds up to more than 11 grams of saturated fats. The daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association is 13 grams.

    Most common culinary oils including canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, flaxseed, grapeseed, and extra-virgin olive oil contain significantly less saturated fat than coconut oil.

    Is Coconut Oil Healthy or Unhealthy?

    The truth is that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support the numerous claims about coconut oil’s potential health benefits, but we do know that it’s high in saturated fat and saturated fat raises LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

    But what about the belief that not all saturated fat is bad? In recent years, numerous claims likened coconut oil to medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) also known as medium-chain fatty acids. MCTs are a type of saturated fat that has been linked to potential health benefits such as weight loss, appetite control, increased metabolism, anti-inflammatory effects and so on. But here is the key…this research on MCTs cannot be applied to coconut oil because the triglycerides predominant in coconut oil are different in their structure, absorption, and metabolism.

    It’s starting to get a little intense now but stay with me!

    Coconut oil is classified as lauric oil because the main fatty acid is lauric acid. Lauric acid can be classified as either a medium-chain or long-chain fatty acid. When your body digests and metabolizes lauric acid it behaves more like a long-chain fatty acid, therefore you are not getting the potentially beneficial effects of MCTs.

    A professor at Columbia University also conducted research that showed a type of fat in coconut oil can increase metabolism and boost weight loss. That type of fat was MCTs because the oil she used in her study was a special 100% medium-chain coconut oil. Most coconut oils typically have 13-14% percent of this medium-chain triglyceride. So, people would have to eat large quantities to replicate the results. “No one eats 150 grams (10 tablespoons) of coconut oil in a day,” said the professor. Nor should they.

    Lower intake of saturated fat coupled with higher intake of unsatured fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). But don’t replace saturated fat with refined carbohydrates and sugars as this will not lower your risk of CVD.

    Bottom Line? Limit your total saturated fat intake in all forms. Eat whole, unprocessed foods such as fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

    Sources:  Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association; Saturated fats: Why all the hubbub over coconuts?; & Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans

    Avocados: Good or Bad?

     The Good, the Bad & the Unsaturated

    Here’s the good news: according to the American Heart Association both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (which are both unsaturated) fats may help improve your blood cholesterol when used in place of saturated and trans fats.

    Translation: eating foods that are rich in unsaturated fats – such as salmon, walnuts, and avocados – may lower your cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Not only do avocados contain high levels of the good fats our bodies need, but they are also a great source of lutein, which has been linked to improved brain health in older adults and improved cognitive function in young children. In fact, avocados took center stage in a recent study and the results showed clear benefits to the “brain health” of the older adults who ate an avocado a day. Now, that’s something to think about!

    Of course, avocados aren’t a stand-alone miracle food but they do pack a nutritional punch.
    For instance:

    • Avocados contain more than 20 vitamins and minerals per serving.
    • They are chock-full of fiber, folate, and antioxidants.
    • A single serving (about 1/5 of a medium avocado) contains only 50 calories.
    • Contains no cholesterol.

    The bottom line is that avocados are a powerful source of vitamins and minerals and contain high levels of unsaturated fats. And, if you are trying to lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke, or just want to improve your diet by adding more fruits and vegetables… including foods like avocados in your meal plan might not be a bad place to start.

    Sources: American Heart Association, Fruits & Veggies More Matters, CDC

    Tips for Starting Solid Foods

    Starting solid foods is an important part of your baby’s development. Use these tips to start solid foods off right — and set your baby on the road to healthy eating for life!

    Is your baby ready? Most babies are ready for solids at around 6 months. Look for these signs:

    • He can sit up mostly on his own
    • He can hold his head up for a long time
    • He’s interested in mealtime — for example, he might try to grab food off your plate
    • He continues to be hungry between nursing or bottle feeding
    • He doesn’t automatically push food out of his mouth with his tongue (young babies have a “tongue-thrust reflex” that fades as they get older)

    Why is it important to wait until your baby is ready? Starting solid foods too early makes it more likely that your child will have a hard time staying at a healthy weight.

    Keep giving your baby breast milk or formula. It’s important to know that for the first year of life your baby will still get most of her nutrition from breast milk or formula — even after she starts eating solid foods. Choose healthy drinks:

    • If you want to give your baby something to drink during meals with solid foods, offer water.
    • Sugary drinks (even 100% juice) add unneeded calories and can harm your baby’s teeth.
    • Keep cereal out of the bottle (unless otherwise directed by a physician). It adds unneeded calories to your baby’s diet.

    Offer simple foods made for babies. Cereals for babies and jarred baby food are both good options. Watch for signs that your baby is done eating. If your baby turns his head away from food or keeps his lips shut, he’s done eating. Don’t force him to eat more—when he starts solids, your baby is developing important eating skills, including understanding and trusting his own hunger and fullness cues.

    Get your family and child care providers on board. You know your baby better than anyone — and you can tell when he’s hungry or full. Make sure your baby’s caregivers also know his hunger and fullness cues so they won’t overfeed him.

    Give fruits and veggies at every meal—and snack time, too. Babies form their taste patterns by 9 months old. So when your baby starts to feed herself finger foods like cereal and crackers, make sure she keeps eating fruits and veggies.

    Introduce a variety of solid foods to avoid picky eating later on. Let your baby try a bunch of different colors, flavors and textures. Babies who eat a variety of foods are less likely to be picky eaters—and they may get more nutrients, too. Stick with it. It can take as many as 10 to 15 tries over several months for a child to get used to a new flavor. Remember, you only need to offer a spoonful or two each time, not a whole bowl. Keep trying—it’s worth it!

    It takes time and practice for children to learn to eat solid foods. Your warmth and patience through this process will help set your child up for healthy growth and development.

    • To access the electronic version click HERE.
    • To access the print-friendly version (8.5″ x 11″ handout) click HERE.
    • To access the print-friendly version (14″ x 34″ poster) click HERE.
    • To access the resource on HealthyChildren.org, click HERE.

    For more information, visit www.healthychildren.org/growinghealthy. This product was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight. Development of this product was made possible through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Choose a Healthy Drink!

    Say “YES” to 100% juice, milk and water!
    • Drink plenty of water. 8 cups will do!
    • Naturally flavor water with lemon, lime or cucumber wedges.
    • Drink nutrient rich low-far or skim milk.
    • Drink 4-6 oz of 100% juice per day.
    • Try unsweetened tea.
    front of Drinks palm card
    Say “NO” to added sugar, caffeine and empty calories.
    • Soda/Pop (diet and regular)
    • Sweetened Teas
    • Vitamin Infused Water
    • Sports Drinks
    • Energy Drinks
    • Alcoholic Drinks
    • Juice That is Not 100%
    • Coffee
    back of Drinks palm card

    Download images here.

    Make Your Valentine’s Day Classroom Party Chocolate-Free

    Looking for Valentine’s Day party treats for your child’s classroom can be a heart-stopping experience. With concerns about allergies, many schools no longer allow homemade goodies, asking for packaged treats to be sent in instead. The only problem with the ban on homemade treats is that these packaged candies and desserts tend to be rich in added sugar, which contribute empty calories and little or no nutrition.

    Instead, think outside the heart-shaped box and use classroom parties as a time to learn about healthy snacking. Try these Valentine’s Day party treats that feature dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

    1. Send a Message
      Using a felt-tipped marker, write fun messages on the skin of clementines (“Hi, Cutie!”) or bananas (“I’m bananas for you!”).
    2. Strawberries on Cloud 9
      Strawberries are rich in vitamin C and fiber and are a naturally healthy treat. Serve them with a small dollop of whipped cream.
    3. Red Dip
      Set up a “dip bar” and let kids make their own snack plates with cut up vegetables, whole-grain pita chips and low-fat cheese cubes to dip into tomato salsa.
    4. Banana Split Love Boats
      Split a peeled banana down the middle and top with low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt and sliced heart-shaped fruit.
    5. Pink Milk
      Bring a big container full of blended strawberries and low-fat milk for a delicious protein-packed, naturally sweet drink.
    6. Heart-Shaped Sandwiches
      Use a cookie cutter to turn a nut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-wheat bread into a heart-shaped Valentine.
    7. Red Fruit and Yogurt Dip
      Celebrate with fruits that are red, the unofficial color of Valentine’s Day: apples, blood oranges, grape tomatoes, red grapes and red peppers. For a sweet dip, mix cinnamon and low-fat vanilla yogurt.
    8. Cupid’s Smoothie
      Before the party starts, blend cranberry or pomegranate juice with low-fat milk, bananas and canned pineapples to make a naturally sweet and pink colored beverage.
    9. XOXO Trail Mix
      Mix together O-shaped cereal (the Os) and pretzel sticks (the Xs) along with bright red dried cranberries and dried strawberries.

    By Brandi Thompson, RD, LDN Published February 10, 2016 at EatRight.org

    Realistic & Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

    The holidays are a time to enjoy friends, family, and food. And contrary to popular belief, you can have all three without worrying about putting on extra pounds!

    The secret…mindful preparation and mindful eating!

    Don’t skip meals throughout the day.
    This will likely result in overeating later. Eat balanced meals and snacks just like any other day, including breakfast! Research shows that those who eat this important morning meal tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day.

    Include lots of fiber in your diet by eating fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains.
    High-fiber foods are high in volume and will satisfy hunger, but are lower in calories. Plus beans and legumes are easy on the food budget. Add lentils to soups, mix half black beans with half lean meat for tacos, add chickpeas to salads, snack on edamame beans and use hummus instead of mayo.

    Choose a broth-based soup instead of a creamy soup.
    When making soup, use a low-sodium broth and add lots of different vegetables, beans and spices. To make a thicker soup without the cream, puree vegetables such as cauliflower, squash or carrots. They create a velvety texture with a lot less calories.

    Use a smaller plate.
    Less room on your plate encourages proper portion sizes.

    Start each meal by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
    If you wait until the end to add fruits and vegetables, you often run out of room.

    Ask yourself is this food calorie worthy?
    Does this food taste good enough for me to spend some of my calories on? Try not to fill your plate with everything just because it’s in the buffet line. And if Grandma’s apple pie is calorie worthy, enjoy a piece!

    Eat slow and savor every bit. Give yourself a little time before going back for seconds.
    Wait to see if you really are still hungry.

    After eating, get in some physical activity!
    Find a new bike trail, walk the neighborhood to look at holiday lights, go ice skating, or play a game with the kids.

    Source: Eatright.org

    Power-Packed Protein for Back-to-School

    It’s back-to-school season which means including power-packed protein—such as milk, cheese, and yogurt—in meals, school lunch boxes, and snacks.

    Dairy protein keeps you feeling fuller longer and delivers important nutritional benefits. Add dairy protein to your diet for all-day energy.

    It is recommended that 10-35% of total daily calories come from protein. For a 2,000 calorie diet, this means 50-175 grams of protein per day. However, many people eat most of their protein in the evening, leaving them without the fuel they need to feel energized all day. 30 grams of protein at each meal will stimulate protein growth in younger and older adults. Distributing protein throughout the day, starting at breakfast, provides energy and a greater ability to focus on the day’s activities.

    Recipes like Power Up Muffin Cups or Fruity Splash Smoothie provide important nutritional benefits and protein to ensure all-day energy. They also make for quick breakfasts before school or work.

    Cottage cheese with berries, flavored milks and yogurts, single-serve cheese sticks, as well as snack packs with dried fruit, nuts and cheese, can be added to school lunches or enjoyed as snacks for dairy protein on-the-go.

    For evening meals, Pita Pizza Faces and BBQ Chicken and Cheddar Foil Packets are a fun way to get kids to eat their protein, and dinner is on the table in a snap.

    Visit Midwest Dairy for recipes and ways to incorporate dairy protein into your meals and snacks.

    Source: Midwest Dairy Council

    Spice It Up During National Nutrition Month

    March is National Nutrition Month! Discover new and exciting tastes while trimming salt from your cooking. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to experiment with new combinations of herbs and spices as you savor the flavor of eating right.

    You have likely heard the advice to use less salt and more herbs and spices in your cooking. But how do you know which ones to use and when? First, let’s talk about the difference between herbs and spices.

    • Herbs grow in mild climates and are the fragrant leaves of plants. Basic herbs to keep on hand: Basil, oregano, garlic, thyme, chives, and rosemary
    • Spices grow in tropical areas and come from the bark, buds, fruit, roots, seeds, and stems of plants and trees. Basic spices to keep on hand: Cumin, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder

    Be prepared, this will take some trial and error in the kitchen. If you are concerned about an overwhelming flavor, start with small amounts, taste test, and add more as needed. Once you have mastered the basics, explore new flavors with curry powder, turmeric, clove, and bay leaf.

    To decide which herbs and spices will go with your dish, think about the cuisine. These are some popular ethnic cuisines and the flavors associated with them:

    • China: Low-sodium soy sauce, rice wine, ginger
    • France: Thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, lavender, tomato
    • Greece: Olive oil, lemon, oregano
    • Hungary: Onion, paprika
    • India: Curry, cumin, ginger, garlic
    • Italy: Tomato, olive oil, garlic, basil, marjoram
    • Mexico: Tomato, chili, paprika
    • Middle East: Olive oil, lemon, parsley
    • Morocco/North Africa: Cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger
    • West Africa: Tomato, peanut, chili.

    Try these salt-free seasoning blends. Combine ingredients and store in a tightly covered jar. Rub or sprinkle them on food for added flavor.

    Mixed herb blend: Mix together ¼ cup dried parsley flakes, 2 tablespoons dried tarragon, and 1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, dill weed, and celery flakes.

    Italian blend: Mix together 2 tablespoons each of dried basil and dried marjoram, 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder and dried oregano, and 2 teaspoons each of thyme, crushed dried rosemary, and crushed red pepper.

    Mexican blend: Mix together ¼ cup chili powder, 1 tablespoon each of ground cumin and onion powder, 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, garlic powder, ground red pepper, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.

    According to McCormick, which has been selling herbs and spices since 1889, today’s home cook is likely to keep at least 40 different seasonings on hand, whereas the typical 1950’s American homemaker relied on fewer than 10 spices. Whenever possible, buy spices in amounts that you can use within 12 months. To keep herbs and spices at their peak of flavor and nutritional potency steer clear of that wooden rack next to the stove. Spices should be kept away from heat, moisture and light, and they are best stored in a cool, dark cupboard in airtight containers.

    Sources: EatRight.org and FoodandNutrition.org

    School Success Starts With Dairy

    A daily breakfast with dairy leads to not only better overall nutrition, but better school performance as well. As kids head back to class, make sure to include dairy and breakfast in their days to set them up for success throughout the school year.

    Breakfast Boosts Brain Power: Research shows that kids who eat a morning meal have better memory, attention and behavior, and score higher on tests.

    Dairy and Breakfast Go Hand in Hand: With so many types of milk, cheeses, and yogurts available, it’s easy to find breakfast combinations for everyone in your family to enjoy. Plus, dairy foods get an A+ for their variety, as well as nutritional and economic value.

    Hungry Students Can’t Learn: Want to help? Make a donation of milk, one of the top nutritious items requested by food banks but rarely provided. You can give to the Great American Milk Drive, a national campaign created in partnership with Feeding America and dairy farmers and milk processors in the Midwest and nationwide, that delivers gallons of milk to hungry families who need it most.

    Learn and share helpful nutrition facts and tips, along with quick and easy recipe ideas that include milk, cheese, and yogurt.

    Source: MidWest Dairy

    Fruits & Veggies—More Matters!

    The USDA recommends eating 5 – 9 servings of fruits and veggies per day. That might sound like a lot, but it’s easy if you follow MyPlate’s tips:

    • Eat the rainbow! Make sure at least half of your plate is full of fruits and veggies. 
    • Choose fruits and veggies as quick snacks. 
    • Try something new. You can find fresh choices at a farm stand or farmers market. 
    • Vary your veggies. Fresh or frozen? Cooked or raw? Red, orange, or green? Picking different options will keep meals interesting! 
    • You can cook frozen or fresh vegetables in the microwave for a quick side dish. 
    • Opt for whole fruits more than fruit juice. Fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and pureed all count! 
    • Add fruit to your cereal or yogurt at breakfast.

    Why are fruits and veggies important to eat?

    • Low in calories—naturally!
    • May reduce disease risk, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.
    • Rich in vitamins and minerals that help you feel healthy and energized.

    Click on each nutrient to see a list of fruits & veggies that are “high” and “good” sources. Remember—beans and peas count as a vegetable, too!

    • Calcium: Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It is also needed for normal functioning of muscles, nerves, and some glands.
    • Fiber: Diets rich in dietary fiber have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects, including decreased risk of coronary heart disease.
    • Folate: Healthful diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect.
    • Iron: Needed for healthy blood and normal functioning of all cells.
    • Magnesium: Magnesium is necessary for healthy bones and is involved with more than 300 enzymes in your body! Low levels may result in muscle cramps and high blood pressure.
    • Potassium: Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
    • Vitamin A: Keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps protect against infections.
    • Vitamin C: Helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy.

    What fruits and veggies are in season right now?

    Choosing fruits and vegetables in season is a great way to stretch your food dollars. Learn more about seasonal fruits and vegetables:

    Unsure how to cut up or use that fruit and vegetable you just bought?

    Go to CookSmarts and watch videos that show you how to cut up and prepare most fruits and vegetables!

    And remember 2 things…

    1.) Fill half your plate with fruits & veggies at every meal and be sure to include healthy snacks when you get the munchies. For a fun way to teach kids (and coworkers) about healthy snacks—check out the Munch Code!

    2.) All forms—fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice—count toward your daily intake.

    Sources:  SD Harvest of the Month, CookSmarts, and South Dakota Department of Health Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS)

    Fun Family Recipes

    As parents and caregivers, you make a big difference in what your kids think and do. When children see you making healthy choices—such as eating right and being active—there’s a good chance they’ll do the same.

    Nutritious food doesn’t have to be bland or take a long time to prepare. Get the whole family to help slice, dice, and chop, and learn how to cut fat and calories. Here are 60 healthy and fun family recipes!

    Source:  National Institutes of Health – Healthy and Fun Family Recipes

    What to Consider with a High Protein Diet

    The Goal is Weight Loss

    High-protein diets take their lead from the low-carb craze. The goal is to lose weight by eating more protein-packed foods, which often means consuming fewer carbohydrates. The portion of total calories derived from protein is what defines a high-protein diet. In a typical diet 10%-15% of daily calories come from protein. In a high-protein diet, this number can be as high as 30%-50%.

    How do High-Protein Diets Work?

    Besides curbing appetites, it’s possible that high-protein diets may also change a person’s metabolism. When carbohydrates are severely restricted, the body begins burning its own fat for fuel — a state called ketosis. Ketosis may shed weight, but it’s also associated with headaches, irritability, nausea, kidney trouble, and heart palpitations.

    Starting a High-Protein Diet

    High-protein diets come in many forms, and not all are created equal. The most nutritious high-protein plans are low in fat and moderate in carbohydrates, rather than high in fat and low in carbohydrates. The following variety of foods fit the high-protein diet bill.

    Say Hello to High-Protein Steak

    Few foods beat a nice, juicy steak for protein. And if you’re careful to choose a lean cut, you can get all of the protein with far less fat.

    Think White Meat

    Chicken and poultry pack plenty of punch in a high-protein diet, and if you enjoy the white meat you’ll be eating a lot less fat than if you choose dark. To slim your meal down even further, remove the skin, which is bursting with saturated fat.

    Look for Pork Loin

    It may surprise you to learn that pork loin is a white meat. What’s more, the cuts available today are much leaner than they were 20 years ago. If you’re interested in a high-protein diet, you may want to plan on pork.

    Lots of Protein, Healthy Fats

    Fish is a no-brainer – it’s loaded with protein and almost always low in fat. Even the types that have more fat, such as salmon, are a good choice. That’s because the fat in fish is generally the heart-healthy kind known as omega-3 fatty acid – and many people don’t get enough of this good-for-you fat.

    Affordable, Convenient, and Tasty

    Eggs are perhaps the most classic and certainly least expensive form of protein. The British Heart Foundation has relaxed its stance on egg consumption saying there’s no longer a need for a healthy person to limit the number they eat. So you may want to get cracking with eggs when you’re on a high-protein diet. If you’re concerned about the fat and cholesterol, egg whites are a good substitute and a heart-healthy source of protein.

    Soy: It’s High in Protein, too

    Soy products, such as tofu, soy burgers and other soy-based foods, are nutritious plant-based sources of protein. An added bonus: some research suggests consuming 25 grams of soy protein daily may also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease.

    Beans and Legumes : Full of Fiber and Protein

    Beans pack a powerful double whammy—they are loaded with protein and also full of fiber. Studies show that, along with protein, fiber helps you feel full longer and also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. As for the protein content, canned baked beans have a sixth of the protein of grilled steak, but with a tenth of the fat.

    Low-Fat Milk Products

    If you want to give your high-protein diet a tasty boost, don’t overlook dairy products as a protein source. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are not only protein-rich, they also provide calcium for strong bones and a healthy heart. Look for low-fat, light, or reduced fat dairy products as part of a reduced calorie diet plan.

    Cereal and Energy Bars

    Pressed for time? You can turn to high-protein cereal or energy bars to give your high-protein diet a quick boost. Just make sure the bars you choose don’t have too much sugar or fat.

    Go Wholegrain, Go Fiber

    Most high-protein diets limit grains to a couple of servings a day, so make sure the grains you do eat are pulling their weight. That means staying clear of white bread and pasta, which have little to offer nutrient-wise, when compared with their wholegrain cousins. Wholegrain breads, cereals, and pastas, on the other hand, are rich in fiber, which might otherwise be in short supply for people on a high-protein diet.

    Leave Room for Fruit and Vegetables

    No matter the emphasis on protein, make sure you leave room for fruit and vegetables in a high-protein diet. As well as having at least 5-a-day, the NHS says they should make up a third of your daily diet. These nutrient gold mines also contain powerful antioxidants that aren’t found in most other foods, and some research suggests that people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables may lower their risk of cancer, although more research is needed.

    A Diet That’s Easy to Love

    High-protein diets may help people lose weight—at least in the short term—because dieters tend to feel full longer when they eat more protein. This alone can cut down on snacking and lead to fairly rapid weight loss. Combine speedy weight loss with the satisfaction of feeling full, and it’s easy to understand why high-protein diets are popular. Unfortunately, many people gain back the weight once the diet ends.

    More Protein, More Risks?

    The medical community has raised many concerns about high-protein diets. These diets often boost protein intake at the expense of fruit and vegetables, so dieters miss out on healthy nutrients – which could possibly increase their risk of cancer. Other potential health risks when high protein diets are used long term include high cholesterol and heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney disease.

    More Saturated Fat, Less Fiber

    Many high-protein diets are high in saturated fat and low in fiber. Research shows this combination can increase cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. These diets generally recommend dieters receive 30% to 50% of their total calories from protein.

    Losing Calcium

    People on high-protein diets excrete more calcium through their urine than do those not on a high-protein diet. If a person sticks to a high-protein diet long term, the loss of calcium could increase their risk of developing osteoporosis.

    Protein May Affect Kidney Function

    People with kidney disease should consult a doctor before starting a high-protein diet. Research suggests people with impaired kidneys may lose kidney function more rapidly if they eat excessive amounts of protein – especially animal protein.

    High-Protein Diets: Jury is Still Out

    There are no long-term studies of high-protein diets, so their ultimate health impact is unknown. But the experts are sure of one thing: The best formula for permanent weight loss is a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating nutritious, low-calorie foods and participating in regular physical activity. Seek medical advice before making major dietary changes.

    Source: WebMD

    What Are Chia Seeds?

    When you hear “chia” your first thought may be of the green fur or hair of Chia Pets, collectible clay figurines. But did you know that chia seeds can also be a healthful addition to your diet?

    Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanicaseed is often sold under its common name “chia” as well as several trademarked names. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. The seeds of a related plant, Salvia columbariae (golden chia), were used primarily by Native Americans in the southwestern United States.

    Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. They are also an excellent source of fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

    Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. However, there are not many published studies on the health benefits of consuming chia seeds and much of the available information is based on animal studies or human studies with a small number of research participants.

    How to Eat Chia Seeds

    Chia seeds can be eaten raw or prepared in a number of dishes. Sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds on cereal, rice, yogurt or vegetables. In Mexico, a dish called chia fresco is made by soaking chia seeds in fruit juice or water. Chia seeds are very absorbent and develop a gelatinous texture when soaked in water making it easy to mix them into cooked cereal or other dishes.

    The seeds are not the only important part of the chia plant; the sprouts are also edible. Try adding them to salads, sandwiches and other dishes.

    Source: EatRight.org; What Are Chia Seeds?

    Cooking Tips for One

    It can be tricky when cooking for one (or even two) to make the most of your ingredients and to minimize dishes — particularly when many recipes focus on making a meal for a family and serve four to six people. But just because you have a smaller household doesn’t mean you should abandon the kitchen for takeout.

    “The best part of cooking for one is that there are no worries about what anyone else wants for dinner. You have the flexibility to enjoy beans with salsa and avocado or a quick omelet with veggies for dinner if you want,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD.

    The first step to dinner-for-one success is to make cooking healthy meals a priority. Planning ahead and arming yourself with a few tips and tricks will put you on the path to triumph in the kitchen.

    According to Moore, the best strategy when cooking for one is to become friends with your freezer. “Instead of scaling down, cook up full recipes: cook once, eat twice. Save time, money and clean up by freezing soups, chili, pasta dishes and extra vegetables,” she says. “Pull these ‘frozen meals’ out when you don’t feel like cooking or just need a quick meal.”

    Here are more kitchen tips for one:


    • Cook a batch of whole grains such as brown rice or barley and freeze in individual portions using a muffin pan. Once frozen, the discs can be stored in a zip-top bag.
    • Have a six-pack of whole-grain English muffins or a whole loaf of bread? Tuck those extras into the freezer for another day; wrap them tightly in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.
    • Visit the bulk bins at your local health food and grocery stores. You can buy exactly what you need with no waste and it’s often less expensive per pound. In addition to grains, you can score a deal on dried herbs and spices as well as nuts, seeds and dried beans.

    Veggies and Fruits

    • “If you’re not able to go food shopping a few days a week (most of us aren’t), embrace frozen produce,” says Moore. “Frozen produce can be just as nutritious as fresh and it’s there when you need it. Just choose options without added sauces and sugar.” Since they’re already chopped up, frozen fruits and veggies are ready to add to smoothies, soups and stir-fries. And because they’re frozen, there is no rush to use them before they spoil.
    • Bulk bags of fruits and veggies are only a better deal if you eat them before they spoil. Only buy what you can reasonably eat before the produce perishes: take extra grapes or cherries out of the bag and pare down that bunch of bananas to what you’ll eat.
    • “Be strategic. Enjoy your most perishable fresh produce like berries and spinach early in the week. Save heartier produce like cabbage, carrots and potatoes for meals later in the week,” suggests Moore.

    Protein: Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Beans

    • Eggs can make a meal happen in a flash, anytime! They are an excellent source of protein and contain a bounty of nutrients such as vitamin D and choline. You can hard-boil a few on the weekend to have as an easy breakfast, snack or quick salad addition.
    • Buy a whole package of meat or poultry and wrap individual portions in freezer-safe paper; label each with the date and contents.
    • A potato masher can easily tame a can of pinto beans into delicious refried beans — a pinch of cumin, garlic and chili powder and you’re ready to eat!

    Scrumptious Strata

    2 whole eggs
    ¼ cup reduced-fat milk
    1 slice whole-wheat bread, torn into small pieces
    ¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
    ¼ cup diced onions (frozen is easiest)
    ¼ cup diced bell peppers (frozen is easiest)
    1 pinch each of garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper
    Salt and pepper, to taste


    1. Spray an oven-safe glass dish with non-stick cooking spray and preheat oven or toaster oven to 350°F.
    2. In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs and milk. Add veggies, cheese and bread and toss to coat.
    3. Pour into prepared dish and bake for about 25 minutes, or until top is browned and knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

    Cooking Note
    This recipe is flexible — feel free to change the vegetables to what you have on hand. It is also easily doubled (or quadrupled) to serve more people.

    Nutrition Information – Serves 1
    Calories: 389; Calories from fat: 206; Total fat: 23g; Saturated fat: 11g; Trans fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 462mg; Sodium: 507mg; Total carbohydrate: 19g; Dietary fiber: 3g; Sugars: 6g; Protein: 27g

    Source: EatRight.org; Cooking Tips for One by Holly Larson, MS, RD

    Chic Penne

    Note: Get a grownup’s help with this recipe, which requires using the oven/stove.

    Prep time: 55 minutes


    • 1 box whole-wheat penne pasta (14 ounces)
    • 3 cups of raw broccoli florettes
    • ¾ cup of precooked chicken strips (4 ounces)
    • ½ cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (2 ounces)
    • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 ounces)
    • 3 tablespoons skim milk (1.5 oz)
    • 2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
    • ¾ teaspoon salt
    • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper


    1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Cook pasta according to directions until crisp-tender. Drain pasta.
    3. Place drained pasta in a 13×9 baking dish.
    4. Place broccoli in a stockpot of boiling water or a steamer for about 5 minutes.
    5. Rinse with cool water.
    6. Add the drained broccoli and the precooked chicken strips to the pasta.
    7. Sprinkle shredded cheeses over pasta mixture.
    8. In a mixing bowl, combine milk, chicken broth, salt, and pepper.
    9. Pour milk mixture evenly over the pasta mixture and mix in with a spoon.
    10. Cover baking dish with foil.
    11. Bake 30 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and cheese is melted.

    Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

    Source: KidsHealth; Chic’ Penne

    Serve Kids Power Foods

    If you want your kids to play hard, power them with the right foods. Ideas for power meals and snacks:

    • Start with a breakfast of whole-grain cereal or whole-grain muffins and fruit. Or begin the day with a yogurt and fruit parfait, with whole grain cereal.
    • Pack a breakfast of a bagel, fruit, string cheese, yogurt, juice box and low-fat milk.
    • Pack a snack bag that includes 1-2 of the following: crackers with cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sliced  fruits and veggies with peanut butter, Greek yogurt dip, fruit, or trail mix. Use a frozen juice or water bottle to keep perishables cold.
    • Offer plenty of water to keep your child hydrated.

    Source: Health Day; Health Tip: Serve Kids Power Foods