Not all Fats are Created Equal

January 26th, 2015

When it comes to eating healthy and weight loss, people tend to get confused about what kind and how much fat they should be eating. Fat is necessary for good health, however, some types of fat are healthier choices than others. Fats supply calories for energy, help protect organs and keep your body warm. They also help in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. If you’re confused about fats in foods and which ones to eat, use the information below to learn which fats are in and which ones are out.


January Blog Fats Chart


food label tans fatHere are some suggestions for ways to include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in your diet and limit saturated and trans fat:

  1. Use olive oil to sauté vegetables instead of butter.
  2. Use vegetable or canola oil when baking.
  3. Use oil-based salad dressings in place of cream-based dressings.
  4. Eat fish, such as salmon, a couple of times per week. Try our Crispy Salmon Patties or Salmon Wraps.
  5. Use the Nutrition Facts Label. It’s best to avoid foods that contain trans fat.

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Whose Plate? MyPlate!

January 19th, 2015

myplate_greenWith a New Year just under way, many people are focused on losing weight. Unfortunately, some of the diets people follow to lose weight are not healthy. People tend to cut out foods or food groups, go on restrictive diets or spend money on unnecessary supplements and drinks. At a recent health and wellness fair I spoke at, one participant mentioned to me that she “just wanted someone to tell her what to eat”. I can totally understand where she was coming from! It seems like every day we hear about a new fad diet or food that we thought was healthy that someone says is not. It can get very confusing.

I told her to ‘model your plate after The MyPlate icon and recommendations given on are healthy, sensible, and easy to remember’. MyPlate is based on a 10-inch plate so be sure to check your plate size. Forget about the fads and miracle diets, follow these simple ideas and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy plate.

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Choose from fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables. Include more red, orange, and dark-green vegetables such as broccoli, leafy greens, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes in your meals.
  • Make at least half your grains whole. One-quarter of your plate should be grains. Choose 100% whole grain cereals, bread, crackers, rice, and pasta. You might also try quinoa, barley, or bulgur.
  • Vary your protein food choices. One-quarter of your plate should be lean protein such as beans and peas, seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, and nuts. Visit our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website for main dish recipes using a variety of protein sources.
  • Switch to skim or 1% milk. In addition to low-fat milk, drink more water and unsweetened beverages. If drinking juice, choose 100% fruit juice.

When people commit to losing weight or eating healthy, they tend to focus on what they ‘shouldn’t’ eat. Instead, focus on what you should eat for good health. Go to to find out how many servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and low-fat dairy you need.

When it comes to eating healthy and weight loss, people tend to get confused about what kind and how much fat they should be eating. Fat is necessary for good health, however, some types of fat are healthier choices than others. Read the blog next week to learn about the different types of fat and the foods they are in.

Jodi Signature

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Build a Better Salad

January 12th, 2015

WholeMealSaladHow many of you are like me and are trying to start some healthy habits in the new year? Whether you’re trying to save money or eat better, packing a healthy lunch can help you do both! Salad is a common go-to option for people trying to eat better, but not all salads are created equal. Here is a quick guide to simplify packing salads for lunch.

  1. Include protein in your salad. Choose proteins like a hard-boiled egg, beans, chicken or canned tuna. The protein will help you stay full throughout the afternoon. This is a great use for leftover ingredients from dinner.
  2. Be careful about your dressing choice. Salad dressing can be expensive and high in fat, calories and sodium. Keep dressing portions small (approximately 1 tablespoon). One way to save money and be certain about the ingredients in your dressing is to make your own. Let our video on homemade dressing or this helpful handout be your guide!
  3. Choose toppings you enjoy, but avoid common pitfalls. Many restaurant salads are topped with lots of high-calorie ingredients like bacon and cheese. It is ok to eat these tasty ingredients from time to time, but they can quickly turn your healthy homemade salad into a meal that is high in fat and calories. Instead, choose lots of veggies to top your salad. In the winter, choose those that taste good all year round like carrots, peppers, celery, green onions and even defrosted, frozen peas.
  4. Prepare your salads ahead of time. We all know what it is like to run out of time on busy mornings. Sturdy greens like spinach hold up well for a few days in the fridge. You can also chop your veggies like peppers, carrots, celery and onions ahead of time. I avoid watery veggies like cucumbers when I am prepping salads ahead because they tend to get a bit soggy after a day or so. Also, wait to put the dressing on your salad until right before you eat it.

If you would like some more ideas about healthy salads, check out the Whole Meal Salad recipe template on our website.

Here’s to a happy and healthy new year for all of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. readers!

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Slow Cooker Pork Chili

January 5th, 2015

slow-cooker-pork-chiliHappy New Year from the SpendSmart.EatSmart team!

We would like to start 2015 off with a new chili recipe for you. If you are like me, you have your own special way of making chili and you do not want to make any changes. When I first saw this recipe, I agreed to try it, but at the same time I told myself that I would make this new chili only once and then I would go back to my usual recipe. I was wrong! Since first trying Slow Cooker Pork Chili over a year ago, I have made my old recipe only once.

Here are some reasons why this chili has become my new favorite:

  • It uses pork. My grocery bill has been increasing, so I try to save money any way that I can. Recently, the grocery store where I shop had pork shoulder for $2.99 per pound. A similar cut of beef cost $4.49 per pound.
  • It makes enough pork for two recipes. You cook the pork in the slow cooker and use half of it for the chili and save the other half for our February recipe (or for another batch of Slow Cooker Pork Chili).
  • It is made in my slow cooker. I have a toddler and a preschooler – this means the hour before supper time can get a little crazy. If I have something ready to go in the slow cooker, it cuts down on the stress of making supper. Find out more about making meals in a slow cooker by clicking on our video or tip sheet.
  • It uses ingredients I typically have on hand – green pepper, onion, salsa, beans, and tomatoes. This saves me time and money because I do not have to go to the grocery store and search for and buy an ingredient I will only use once.
  • It tastes great! Serve it with some milk and fruit and you have an easy and great tasting meal.

Resolutions don’t have to be about giving something up, resolve to have some fun in the kitchen and try this new healthy recipe!



Slow Cooker Pork Chili                

Serves: 6 | Serving Size: 1 ¼ cups | Cost Per Serving: $1.52


  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt, roast, or shoulder
  • 1 cup bell pepper, diced (1 medium pepper)
  • 1 cup onion, diced (1 medium onion)
  • 1 1/2 cups salsa
  • 1 can (15 ounces) low-sodium pinto beans
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) low-sodium diced tomatoes


  1. Trim visible fat from the pork. Cut into 2 inch chunks. Place in slow cooker.
  2. Add pepper, onion, and salsa.
  3. Cook on a low setting for 6 hours or a high setting for 3 hours.
  4. Pull the meat apart into shreds with a fork. (You should have about 4 cups.)
  5. Put half (2 cups) of the shredded pork in the refrigerator or freezer. (We’ll post a pork sandwiches recipe in February that will call for shredded pork!).  Freeze pork if it will not be used within 4 days.
  6. Return the rest of the pork to the slow cooker. Add pinto beans and diced tomatoes.
  7. Cook another 30 minutes until hot.


  • Pork chops, boneless pork rib, or pork loin can be used. They will be more expensive but have less fat.
  • Trim fat from pork with a clean knife on a clean cutting board.
  • This recipe freezes well.
  •  Other beans can be used.

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Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

December 29th, 2014

young boy sick cold blowing noseHow are you feeling today? I hope you are feeling well and that you will enjoy a winter without having a cold or the flu.

Unfortunately, I am not feeling so well, I am fighting a cold that my daughter, son, and husband have already had. I tried my best to prevent it. I made sure that we were all washing our hands. I made sure that everyone was getting enough sleep. I made sure that we were eating healthy meals. I tried everything I could think of, but we all got sick. There are still things I can do to help us get well soon.

Here are the top five things I do to prevent getting sick or, if we do get sick, to help us get better fast:

  1. Wash hands frequently. Washing hands correctly (see the steps here) is the best way to stop germs from spreading from one person to another. Wash hands after wiping noses, coughing, going to the bathroom, and before every meal and snack.
  2. Drink plenty of fluids. Most people need to drink at least eight cups of fluids every day. When we are sick, we need even more, especially if we have a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting. Choose fluids that taste good and are soothing to you. I usually choose hot tea because it feels good on my dry, scratchy throat and I like the taste of it. My husband and children prefer 100% fruit juice when they are sick.
  3. Eat fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that can help our immune systems fight off germs.
  4. Eat chicken noodle soup. Eating chicken noodle soup when sick has many benefits. The warm broth soothes a sore throat and provides fluids. The vegetables and whole grain noodles supply or bodies with vitamins and minerals. The chicken is a lean protein that can help our immune systems. I try to make a large batch of chicken noodle soup and then freeze it in smaller containers so it is ready to go when I am sick and not feeling like cooking. Spend Smart. Eat Smart has a wide variety of soup recipes.
  5. Get plenty of sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Children need more. When we are sick, we need even more sleep than usual to heal. It is ok to call in sick to work or school to get some extra rest when sick. This has an added bonus of not spreading your germs on to your friends and co-workers.

I hope you enjoy a happy, healthy new year!

– Justine

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Last Minute Gifts

December 22nd, 2014

granola jarIf you find yourself racing to find a last-minute gift, look no further! Here is a collection of Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that make great low-cost gifts.

  1. Oatmeal Pancakes – Simply combine the dry pancake mix and oatmeal in a plastic bag or jar and attach a label with the cooking directions.
  2. Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes – Bake a batch and separate them into plastic bags or containers with festive ribbons or tags.
  3. Whole Grain Cereal Treats – These are a twist on everyone’s favorite. Add some sprinkles or top with a bit of colored sugar for a festive look.
  4. Crispy Granola – You can make a big batch of this granola and put it in small jars or bags to share with friends.

People love to receive recipes so make a point of attaching the recipe for each of the “gifts” you give. A healthy and homemade gift is a great way to show you care!

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Holiday Entertaining- Snacks and Desserts

December 15th, 2014

pumpkinpuddingThe temperatures are dropping, and the holiday season is right around the corner. The holidays are a great time to celebrate and enjoy the company of family and friends. The month is filled with parties and good cheer – and plenty of food! Here are some ideas to keep the holidays delicious without throwing nutrition to the wind.

Flavored popcorn

Popcorn is a perfect healthy whole grain snack to have around when entertaining, but plain popcorn doesn’t always get my mouth watering. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to spruce up an old favorite! Check out all these twists. I recommend Vanilla Corn and Nut Corn (Yum!).

Rhonda’s Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are one of my favorite snacks to munch on this time of year. They’re easy and relatively inexpensive to make, and they are a fun dish to bring to a holiday potluck. Packed with plenty of protein, an egg is filling enough to keep you from raiding the cookie table all night.

Pumpkin Pudding

There’s nothing wrong with a sweet little treat after dinner, but traditional holiday pies are often packed with sugar and extra calories. This pumpkin pudding is a healthy alternative that doesn’t sacrifice great flavor. It just might become your family’s new favorite!


ISU Dietetics Student

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Scrambled Egg Muffins

December 8th, 2014

Scrambled Egg MuffinsI often have overnight company around the holidays and many times I am looking for tasty, simple dishes I can serve hot from the oven with toast, fruit and milk. Scrambled egg muffins work for guests and they are very versatile. I have used a lot of different veggies such as mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach.  I have even added ham or Canadian bacon.  If you’re in a real hurry, you can skip the muffin pan all together and make it in a 8 x 8-inch pan. It will take about 20 minutes in an 8 x 8 pan. To be sure, bake to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Other tips for this recipe include:

  • Diced means to cut into small pieces (1/4 inch or less).
  • Vegetables can be chopped up the night before and stored in the refrigerator to make the recipe even faster.
  • Serve extra leftover egg muffins chopped up in tortillas or with a green salad and roll for another meal.

 Scrambled Egg Muffins

Serving Size: 1 muffin | Serves: 6 | Cost Per Serving: $.59

scrambled egg muffin labelIngredients: 

  • 2 cups washed vegetables, diced (broccoli, red or green bell peppers, onion)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup low fat cheddar cheese, shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray.
  2. Add chopped veggies to the muffin tin.
  3. Beat eggs in a bowl. Stir in salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  4. Pour eggs into the muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes. To add cheese, remove the tin from the oven during the last 3 minutes of baking. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the muffins and return the tin to the oven.
  5. Bake until the temperature reaches 160°F or a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

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Preparing your Kitchen for Holiday Entertaining

December 1st, 2014

Holiday place settingIt’s the time of year when many of us have family visiting and special get-togethers that involve food. You can save a lot of money by having holiday parties at home rather than in a restaurant and it is usually more fun too. I have friends coming for dinner this month as well as a neighborhood cookie swap at my house.

These are all fun things to do, but I’ll have a lot more fun if I get organized and I know that my kitchen is ready for the extra “traffic”. Here are some things that I do to make sure my kitchen is organized for holiday entertaining.

  1. I go through my seasonings and spices to make sure I know what I have so that I don’t end up buying unnecessary duplicates.
  2. I look carefully at what is in my freezer and make a point of getting things used up to clear out space.
  3. I go through the bottles and jars in my fridge and make sure everything is in date. If it is expired I throw it out.
  4. I review the recipes that I want to make and create a meal plan as well as a grocery list. This will keep me from being tempted by all of the tasty things at the grocery store that I really don’t need. As I’m doing this, I think about what I’ll ask guests to bring if they offer to provide a dish.
  5. Parties can mean some extra sweets and rich holiday recipes so I balance those extra calories by eating really well when it’s not party day. I stock up on easy-to-eat fruits and veggies that I can keep in the fridge for a quick snack or side dish.

I hope these tips help make your holiday entertaining stress free and please share your ideas with us on Spend Smart. Eat Smart’s. Facebook page!

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Tackling Thanksgiving Leftovers with Flair

November 24th, 2014

turkey stuffing dinner supper mealThe fall and winter holidays are my absolute favorite! I love it when we start to get a chill in the air and look ahead to holiday cooking. This week is filled with anticipation of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Yum!

But what happens on Friday? There are always so many leftovers from Thanksgiving and you can only eat so many turkey sandwiches. Here are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that don’t taste anything like Thanksgiving but get those leftovers used up.

Chicken Club Salad Use turkey instead of the chicken in this recipe for a light and refreshing meal. You can also use up those leftover veggies from your relish tray!
Quick Pad Thai The Asian flavors in this dish will be a nice change of pace after all that holiday food. Use turkey instead of chicken and fresh veggies if you have them.
Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes Did you buy one too many cans of pumpkin? This recipe is delicious and takes no time at all to make. These are perfect if you have someone in your house who doesn’t like pumpkin because they just taste like chocolate.


Enjoy the holiday and share your Thanksgiving photos with us on Facebook!

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