Fruity Fun!

frutWith the weather warming up here in the Midwest, gardens are being planted and farmers markets will open soon. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on fresh fruits and vegetables that will be in season. Strawberries and watermelon just say ‘summer’ to me! Adults and children need 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit per day for good health. In my family we usually eat fruit for breakfast or for snacks. There are some recipes on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. that make eating fruit really fun for kids including Fruit Slush, Frozen Fruit Cups, or Fruit Kabobs & Yogurt. These recipes are flexible and can be made with different combinations of fruit depending on what you like and what you have on hand.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Breakfast: It Does a Body Good

Make Ahead BBLast week I wrote about making breakfast foods for supper. I ended up making the French Toast  one night and it was a hit with my family, especially my 2-year-old daughter. We have a number of breakfast recipes on our website that could be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or supper. I’m not much of a cereal eater but I really like the Crispy Granola. You can make it to your liking by adding different kinds of nuts and dried fruit. Breakfast Splits are a fun one for kids or to have when guests are over. You can set out bananas, different flavors of yogurt, different cereals, chopped fruit and nuts and each person can make their own splits. And my favorite breakfast recipe is our Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos. I make a batch to put in the freezer. Then I can grab one out and quickly heat it in the microwave to enjoy on busy mornings. You can also find me enjoying one at supper some nights when I’m not up to cooking!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Breakfast for Supper

ThinkstockPhotos-497280057 french toastRecently my husband got groceries and came home with a carton of 18 eggs. I usually only buy a dozen eggs so I asked him if he had something planned for all the eggs. He didn’t so I started thinking of how I was going to use them. I know it’s only 6 more eggs but it seemed like a lot of eggs to use! After eggs are purchased, they can be stored in their original carton in the refrigerator for 3-5 weeks. Usually the “sell-by” date on the carton will expire during that storage period, but the eggs will remain safe to use. I could make hard-cooked eggs or egg salad, but I’ve had my fill of those for a while after all the hard-cooked eggs at Easter! What came to mind next was to make breakfast for supper. Scrambled Egg Muffins, Easy Quiche, or French Toast are all tasty ways to use up the eggs and change up what we have for supper. And my kids like smoothies so I could serve Fruit Smoothie to get in a serving or two of fruit. No sleeping in past this breakfast!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Pineapple Snack Cakes

pineapple snack-webAt the grocery store where I shop, they often have canned pineapple on special. It is usually a great deal on a great tasting and nutritious fruit. My family loves canned pineapple as a side dish for any meal, so I buy it often. My husband and son even like to drain the juice off and save it to drink later. Our April recipe is a new way to use canned pineapple – as a snack cake.

A 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple is drained and patted dry then mixed with typical muffin ingredients and baked to make Pineapple Snack Cakes. These snack cakes are versatile and can be used as a snack, side dish, or dessert. Next time you find a deal on crushed pineapple, try out this Pineapple Snack Cake recipe!

Pineapple Snack Cakes

Serving Size: 1 muffinpineapple snack label-web
Serves: 12
Cost Per Serving: $0.14
Ingredients: 
  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple in 100% juice
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with liners or spray with cooking spray.
  2. Drain juice from the pineapple into a cup or bowl. Save the juice for step 4. Dab pineapple with a paper towel to dry.
  3. Whisk whole wheat flour, all purpose white flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  4. Beat sugar, oil, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the saved pineapple juice until combined. Beat in eggs. Stir in the crushed pineapple.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Divide the batter into the muffin tins.
  6. Bake until the snack cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the center of a snack cake comes out clean, about 18–20 minutes.
  7. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Tips: 
  • Pineapple Snack Cakes are great as a side dish to any meal or as a snack.
  • Use pineapple tidbits or chunks instead of crushed pineapple. Drain well and finely chop.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of coconut or walnuts on top of each snack cake before baking.
  • Save extra pineapple juice to add to a salad dressing, fruit salad, or smoothie.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Enjoying Seafood in a Land-locked State

ThinkstockPhotos-509809136I have an uncle who worked for years as a sea captain. He is retired now, but has many stories of his time traveling the world on a tanker ship. He often says you should not eat certain seafood unless you are within ‘spitting distance’ of the ocean. Please pardon the picture that might put in your head!

I always found that funny as a child and as an adult I have come to wonder if it is really true. We in Iowa live in a land-locked state, so access to fresh seafood from the ocean is pretty limited. Fresh seafood is very expensive here and by the time it arrives in Iowa it needs to be prepared very quickly to maintain quality and food safety. Most of us don’t have the resources to work with that kind of product. Instead, we make use of frozen options. But is frozen fish really as good as fresh?

Frozen fish is similar to frozen vegetables in that they are frozen immediately upon harvest so the product’s freshness and quality is preserved very well. In fact, wild caught fish is often frozen right on board the ship when it is caught. Fresh seafood that is harvested in this part of the country like catfish and trout may be available fresh at a reasonable price, particularly during certain times of year. However, frozen seafood is a great option year round.

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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What is the Story with Mercury in Fish?

ThinkstockPhotos-512452568You may have heard on the news that we should be concerned about mercury in fish.  Nearly all fish contain traces of mercury. Mercury is found naturally in aquatic environments. It is absorbed by fish and can accumulate in their bodies, especially in larger fish and fish that live longer. Too much mercury can be harmful for humans, especially for an unborn baby or a growing, developing child. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children avoid certain types of fish high in mercury and limit weekly seafood consumption to less than 12 ounces. Most Americans consume well below this guideline.

Many commonly eaten fish like shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish are low in mercury.

Large fish that tend to be higher in mercury include: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

You can eat fish and avoid dangerous amounts of mercury by choosing from the lower mercury options. If you would like to learn more about healthy seafood choices, visit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Fish and Shellfish website.

Written by: Frances Armstead, dietetic intern and Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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One Fish Two Fish

Pan Fried FishFish is a nutrient-rich, high-quality protein that provides many health benefits. Most fish can be classified into two major categories, oily or “fatty” fish and non-fatty fish. In this case, “fatty” should not worry you. Fatty fish are very healthy to eat.

Fatty fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for growth, development, and brain function. Omega-3’s also may help prevent chronic disease. Some examples of fatty fish include tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, and mackerel.

Non-fatty fish are typically white-fleshed fish. White fish still contain some healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples of white fish include tilapia, cod, and haddock.

For those of us living in the center of the United States, access to fresh fish is pretty limited and when it is available, it is very expensive. Taking advantage of frozen fish options can make eating seafood more affordable, and in many cases, frozen fish can be just as delicious as the catch of the day. Here are some of our favorite fish recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Written by: Frances Armstead, dietetic intern and Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Fish Sandwich

fish sandwich-webMy husband gets excited this time of year for fish sandwiches. He loves that he can get a deal on fish sandwiches at one of his favorite fast food restaurants. A few years ago, I decided to try to make a homemade fish sandwich that would be heathier, less expensive, and tastier than his fast food favorite.

The recipe I came up with is our March recipe of the month. You simply coat fish in a mixture of cornmeal and seasonings and lightly pan fry it in a small amount of oil. Top with your favorite sandwich toppings and enjoy!  At 300 calories and 10 grams of fat (the fast food version is 390 calories and 19 grams of fat) and less than a dollar a sandwich, I know that I succeeded in making a healthier and less expensive sandwich. I think this sandwich is tastier than the fast food version, but I suspect that my husband still likes the deep fat fried version better. I hope that after trying this recipe, you will agree with me!

Fish Sandwich

Serving Size: 4fish sandwich label-web
Serves: 1 sandwich
Cost Per Serving: $0.91
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 4 frozen filets (about 3 ounces each) of white fish (tilapia), thawed
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Optional sandwich toppings: sliced onions and tomatoes, leaf lettuce, light ranch dressing or tartar sauce
Instructions: 
  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot. Spread the cornmeal on a plate and press the fish into the cornmeal to coat on all sides.
  • Fry the fish in the hot oil until the cornmeal is lightly browned. This will take about 2–3 minutes on each side. Fish is done when the internal temperature reaches 145˚F or it flakes easily with a fork.
  • Move the fish from the frying pan to a plate lined with paper towels. Pat the fish dry with more paper towels.
  • Assemble sandwiches with your favorite toppings.
Tips: 
  • Thaw fish in the refrigerator overnight.
  • For more flavor, mix 1 teaspoon seasoning with cornmeal before coating fish. Seasoning might be lemon pepper, pepper, garlic powder, or chili powder.
  • Make homemade tartar sauce. Stir light mayo or salad dressing with pickle relish.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Youth Dental Health Month

IMG_2236My 6-year old son complains about doing it. My 2-year old daughter would do it 5 times a day if you let her. What am I talking about? Brushing their teeth.

It’s not just about preventing cavities, taking care of our teeth is so important to overall health. One reason is because strong, healthy teeth are necessary in order to eat a nutritious diet that includes crunchy fruits and vegetables, like apples, carrots, and broccoli. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Teaching children how to take care of their teeth at a young age will help them develop healthy lifelong habits. The American Dental Association gives these recommendations:

  • Brush two minutes, two times a day.
  • Clean between your teeth daily.
  • Limit snacks, eat healthy meals.
  • Visit your dentist regularly.

I would also add ‘drink water instead of sugary beverages’. There are 8-10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce can of regular pop. The sugar is not good for teeth and the pop provides no nutrition. If children want something sweet to drink, freeze juice in an ice cube tray to use in water. As the ice melts it will provide a slight sweet taste to the water without adding a lot of extra sugar. If children drink juice, be sure it is 100% juice and limit it to 4-6 ounces or less per day.

Make brushing your teeth fun by doing it together or putting on a song that lasts two minutes to pass the time. Just don’t let your 2-year old get a hold of the new tube of toothpaste!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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The Salty Six

We have blogged on the Salty Six before, but since so many of our readers are interested in reducing their blood pressure, we decided it was worth another post!

Many people think that reducing sodium means putting down the salt shaker. There is some truth to this. However, most of the sodium we eat doesn’t come from salt we add at home, but rather from sodium added to packaged foods and restaurant dishes.

The American Heart Association created the Salty Six list to educate Americans about the foods that tend to hide an unexpected amount of sodium. These foods aren’t always particularly ‘salty’ in taste, but they pack a sodium punch!

the salty six

If some of your favorite foods are on this list, there are a few things you can do:

  • Check Nutrition Facts labels, you may find that some brands don’t add as much sodium as others.
  • Look for reduced sodium or no salt added varieties.
  • Enjoy the foods you love, just eat them less often.

Remember the Salty Six next time you make your grocery list and check those Nutrition Facts labels while you’re shopping!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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