Let’s Talk about Food Waste

By Sarah Allen, Nutrition Program Student Assistant

Money in Trash BagIt is that time of year when fresh fruits and veggies are in season, and the grocery store has specials on meat for grilling. However, sometimes you buy too much and have to throw away food because it goes bad before you can use it. Food waste is particularly problematic when you are trying to stick to a tight grocery budget because you get nothing for your money if food goes in the trash.

How much money is that? On average, we waste $370 worth of food per person per year in the US. USDA’s Let’s talk trash. infographic breaks it up by types of food:

Grains (bread, pasta): $22 per year
Fruits (apples, banana, orange): $45 per year
Proteins (beef, chicken, pork, fish): $140 per year
Vegetables (onion, lettuce, peppers): $66 per year
Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese): $60 per year
Added Fat & Sugar (chips, candy): $37 per year
Total: $370 per year

As you can see, protein is one of the top types of food that we throw away, while foods like bread and pasta are least likely to be thrown away. This seems like a lot of money (and food). Why do we throw food away? The main reason is because it spoils before we can eat it.

Food waste may seem hard to avoid, but you can reduce it. The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website has a lot of ideas for how you can save your food in the Reduce Food Waste section. Look for my blog next week on how you can limit food waste!

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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On the Counter or in the Fridge?

grocery-bag-and-producewpMy kids and I have been faithfully watering our tomato plant (we’re not getting much rain where we live!) and watching it grow this summer. We’re growing the plant in a large container and it’s the only produce we are growing this year, so we’re giving it extra good care. There are 3 green tomatoes on it so far, but lots of flowers so I think we could get quite a few tomatoes!

If you’re growing your own produce or shopping at a farmers market, it’s just about time for all that wonderful produce to be ready. It’s great to eat when it is so fresh, but when you aren’t able to eat it fast enough, it’s good to know how to properly store the produce so it lasts longer.

Here’s a quick look at how to store some types of produce:

Refrigerate:

Apples, berries, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, and anything that is cut up

Keep at Room Temperature:

Melons, tomatoes, squashes (store on the counter but away from direct sunlight)

Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes (best if kept in a dark area such as a pantry)

Ripen on Counter then Refrigerate:

Nectarines, peaches, pears, plums

For more information on storing fruits and vegetables, watch our video on How to Store Fruits and Vegetables.

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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Sweet and Tangy Chicken Quesadillas

sweet_tangy_chicken_quesadillaswpHappy 4th of July from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team! Today we are celebrating with our recipe of the month – Sweet and Tangy Chicken Quesadillas.

I enjoy using sweet and savory flavors in a meal, but, I confess, I had never had fruit in a quesadilla until I tried this recipe. I was skeptical when I first made these quesadillas, but now I enjoy trying different fruit and vegetable combinations in my quesadillas. This recipe combines canned peaches, chicken cooked in the juice drained from the peaches, and cheese in a whole wheat tortilla to make a delicious quesadilla.

This recipe is easy to adapt to the foods you have on hand. I have substituted beans for the chicken to make a meatless meal and I have used canned pineapple when I was out of peaches. You can have fun making many tasty combinations.

chicken-quesadillas-webSweet and Tangy Chicken Quesadillas
Serving Size: 1 quesadilla | Serves: 4
Cost Per Serving: $1.04

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15 ounces) peaches in 100% juice
  • 1 cup boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese
  • 4 8-inch whole wheat tortillas

Optional: black beans, cilantro, corn, jalapeño pepper, onion, salsa, tomato

Instructions:

  1. Strain the juice from the peaches into a bowl. Cut peaches into small bite-sized pieces. Set the peaches aside.
  2. Heat a skillet to medium. Spray it with cooking spray. Add chicken and peach juice.
  3. Cook the chicken, stirring occasionally, until internal temperature reaches 165°F.  Remove chicken and peach juice from skillet.
  4. Put 1/4 of each ingredient (chicken mixture, peaches, cheese, and optional ingredients) on half of each tortilla.
  5. Fold the empty side of the tortilla over the cheese, chicken, and fruit like closing a book.
  6. Cook quesadillas in skillet until lightly browned on both sides. Make sure they are warmed through and cheese is melted.

Tip:

  • Substitute other fruit, such as pineapple or apricots.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Go with the Whole Grain this Summer—Take the Challenge!

By Food Science and Human Nutrition student guest blogger

banana_oatmeal_breadwpThis summer try the whole grain challenge. The challenge: Make half (or more!) of your grains whole grains for a week.

The best way to include whole grains in your diet is to substitute whole grain products for refined grains in things you already make and love.

Here are some fun, tasty ideas for how to incorporate whole grains into your busy summer:

Picnic Ideas

Snack Ideas for the poolside or road tripping

Movie Night

  • Enjoy popcorn, with light salt and oil
  • Fix pizza with a whole wheat crust, add veggies for a more nutritious punch

BBQ in the backyard

Adding whole grains to your diet doesn’t have to be hard. Just sub whole grains for refined, and you’ve already won the challenge!

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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Meal Makeovers with Whole Grains

Taco Rice SaladI did not grow up eating a lot of whole grains. Actually, I did not truly know what a whole grain was until I was an adult. Last week, our intern guest blogger wrote about how to find out if a food is whole grain or not. This week, I would like to share with you how I have replaced refined grains with whole grains in my menu.

  1. The first, and easiest, change I made was to start buying whole wheat bread for our toast and sandwiches. With some trial and error, I have found a whole wheat bread that everyone in my family likes. Thankfully, it is also the least expensive whole grain bread at my local grocery store. Try whole grain bread in our Tuna Melt Sandwich.
  1. The second change I made was to use brown rice and whole wheat pasta. This change was a little more difficult because my husband and I were used to the softer texture of white rice and pasta, but now we prefer both the texture and flavor of the whole grain versions. Try brown rice in our Tasty Taco Rice Salad and whole grain pasta in our Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta.
  1. The third, and most challenging, change I made was replacing all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour in our baked goods. One of my husband’s favorite foods is muffins of all kinds. I knew that we could make our muffins healthier by replacing some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. It took some experimenting, but now our favorite muffin recipes include both whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour (the amounts depend on the recipe). Try whole wheat flour in our Pineapple Snack Cakes.

My husband and I started adding whole grains to our menu little by little and now the majority of the grains we eat are whole grains. It has taken time and compromise, but we are happy with the choices we have made.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Whole Grain Goodness

By Katie Busacca, ISU Dietetic Intern

Whole Wheat LabelMulti-grain, whole wheat, 100% wheat, bran, 7-grain- the options are endless when trying to pick a grain product, but what does it all mean? As many people know, the current recommendation is to make at least half the grain products in your diet whole grains. Whole grains promote heart health, aid in good digestion and may help you maintain a healthy weight. But with all of this labeling deception, how do you know if you are choosing a whole grain product?

When choosing a grain product the best way to determine if it is whole grain is to read the ingredient list. The first ingredient will likely be one of these:

  • Whole wheat
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Whole grain
  • Stone ground whole grain
  • Brown rice
  • Oats/oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgar
  • Graham flour
  • Wheatberries

Whole Grain IconsAnother good rule of thumb is to look for the 100% whole grain or whole grain stamp on the package, as seen on the right. The 100% whole grain stamp means that all of the grains used in the product are 100% whole grain and the product provides at least 16g of whole grains per serving. While the whole grain stamp (without the 100%) indicates that some of the grains used to make this product are whole grain and some are refined grains. These products will include at least 8g of whole grains per serving. Both are great choices!

As whole grain products become more popular, they are also becoming easier to find and less expensive. There are some simple substitutions you can make in your own diet to add the health benefits of whole grains.

Try this… Instead of this….
Whole grain pasta Regular pasta
Brown rice White rice
100% whole wheat bread White bread
Whole wheat tortillas White tortillas
Whole wheat flour All-purpose flour

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website is full of recipes using whole grain products! One quick and easy recipe I love is the Quick Pad Thai. Not only does it use whole grain pasta, but also it is simple to modify to include your favorite fresh or frozen vegetables. You can also use these simple tips to experiment with recipes and make delicious, healthy creations of your own!

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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Zesty Whole Grain Salad

zesty_whole_grain_saladwpToday I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes – Zesty Whole Grain Salad. A student shared the inspiration for this recipe with me, and, once I tasted it, I was hooked. I ate it for lunch nearly every day for weeks.

This salad makes a perfect lunch, and this is why:

  • It tastes great with the sweet and tangy homemade salad dressing.
  • The fiber, protein, and fat will fill you up and keep you full.
  • It is easy to pack into smaller containers for lunches on the go.
  • You get fruit, vegetables, protein, and whole grains in one bowl.
  • It simplifies lunch planning for the week because it makes a lot and it stores well in the refrigerator. So you and your family can eat it for three or four days.

Zesty Whole Grain Salad
zesty-whole-grain-salad-label-webServing Size: 6  |  Serves: 1 1/2 cups  |  Cost Per Serving: $1.43
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked whole grain (brown rice, kamut™, quinoa)
  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins)
  • 1 bunch kale or 10-ounce package spinach (about 6 cups), torn into bite-sized pieces

Instructions:

  1. Cook whole grain according to package directions. Cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper.
  3. Stir apples, nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain into dressing.
  4. Toss greens with other ingredients.

Tips:

  • Substitute 2 cups of chopped fruit (strawberries, grapes, oranges) for the apples.
  • Do not give honey and nuts to infants under one year of age.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Don’t Let Dry Beans Scare You

ThinkstockPhotos-175947020wpAs I wrote in my last blog on beans, they fit many of my requirements as a mom and dietitian. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive, and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Most of the time I use canned beans. They are very convenient and besides draining and rinsing, require no additional cooking. You can find ‘no salt added’ canned beans, which is great since many of us get more than enough sodium in our diets. And they usually don’t cost any more than the regular kind. If you’d rather not use the ‘no salt added’ kind, rinse the beans to reduce the sodium.

On occasion, I also like to cook dry beans. And some of my family and friends prefer to cook their own beans instead of using the canned versions. Canned beans are an inexpensive source of protein and when buying them dry, they are even less expensive. You might think that cooking dry beans is too much hassle if you haven’t tried it before. It does take time but most of that time you don’t have to stand over them while they cook. When I cook dry beans, I like to use the Slow Cooker Method.

Here are the steps to success:

  1. Spread 1 pound dried beans on a baking sheet and remove any small stones, dirt or withered beans.
  2. Put the beans in a strainer and rinse them under running water.
  3. Add beans and 8 cups of water to a slow cooker, then cook them on low for 6-8 hours until soft.
  4. Serve right away or freeze the beans in 1 ½ cup portions to use later. One and a half cups is about the amount in 1-15 ounce can of beans. How easy is that?!
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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Beans, Beans, Beans

ThinkstockPhotos-512755114This month at Spend Smart. Eat Smart., we have been talking a lot about beans. We love beans because they are packed with nutrition and they are inexpensive. Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite bean recipes from our website. Try one out this week, I am sure you will enjoy it!

Many of these recipes call for canned beans that have been drained and rinsed. You can substitute 1-2 cups cooked, dried beans. It is easy to cook an entire bag of dried beans and then freeze them in one or two cup serving sizes to use when you need them.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Beans, Beans the Musical Fruit

ThinkstockPhotos-158913960There are many benefits to eating beans. They are high in fiber, protein, iron, folate, and potassium. In addition, they are inexpensive so easy on the budget. There’s just one little problem…they can cause intestinal gas. And how embarrassing is that! The good news is there are ways to help reduce the amount of intestinal gas caused by eating beans.

  • Add beans to the diet slowly over a period of several weeks. This allows your body to adjust to the added fiber provided by the beans. Once you are eating beans on a regular basis, intestinal gas will be less of problem.
  • Chew beans well to help digest them.
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help your body handle the extra fiber in beans.
  • When preparing dry beans, use the hot (short) soak method of soaking beans. This method reduces many gas-producing substances in beans. Always discard soaking water and rinse beans with fresh water after soaking.

As a dietitian and a mom, beans check all of my boxes. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Keep the tips above in mind and toss some beans in your grocery cart today.

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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