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The Down Low on Kids and Constipation

August 17th, 2015

When I was asked to write a blog for back to school the first topic that came into my mind was kids and constipation. It is often a topic no one wants to bring up, but once someone does, everyone wants to talk about it!

Constipation is a challenge we face on a regular basis with our youngest daughter. Honestly if she had a choice she would never go! This fall she starts kindergarten and I worry the holding will get worse as she may have limited access to the bathroom or simply be too afraid or shy to use it.

We have met with her pediatrician on several occasions to address this issue and to rule out any underlying health conditions. We have learned she needs to consume more fiber-rich foods, drink plenty of water, participate in daily physical activity, and the most challenging one for her….take time to go.

Fiber Foods and H2O

Many “kid foods”, such as chicken nuggets, pizza, crackers, etc. lack fiber. A low fiber diet often results in firm, painful to push out, stool. Foods that are naturally rich in fiber tend to keep stool soft. Whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans, fruits and vegetables can help. And don’t forget water! Water is very important to keep the stool moving through the system. We try to start her day off with fruit as part of her breakfast and incorporate additional fruits and vegetables at dinner and at snack. Her school does allow students to have water bottles, so we plan to send one every day.

fiber blog chart

Get Moving in More Ways than One!

kids playing outdoors park runningPhysical activity can encourage bowel movement. Organized sports or dance classes are great forms of physical activity, but we have learned it’s best not to be overscheduled. These types of activities mean less time at home, which sometimes can lead to less time to go to the bathroom. We encourage physical activity throughout the day like walking to school, playing outside, or taking the dog for a walk after dinner. Incorporating short amounts of physical activity throughout the day can go a long way.

Taking Time to Go

Many times children may ignore the urge to go because they don’t want to take a break from what they are doing. The longer they hold it the harder the stool may become. It is important to get on a schedule of taking time to go around the same time each day. We have her sit on the toilet for about 10 minutes each evening, reading a book, coloring, etc. We do this even if she says she doesn’t have to go. More often than not, she goes. It has now become part of her daily routine, just like eating breakfast, brushing her teeth, going to school, etc.

Constipation is common among children. Good nutrition, physical activity, and making bathroom breaks part of their daily routine can go a long way to help keep your children healthy and comfortable. If you are concerned about your child’s constipation, contact your pediatrician.

Carrie Scheidel, MPH
Iowa Department of Education

Jody Gatewood, MS, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

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Hitting the Road!

August 10th, 2015

packed lunch healthySummer is the perfect time to load up the car for a getaway with the family. Regardless of the destination, you’ll need to eat along the way. The highways are lined with fast food restaurants and gas stations, but that’s about it. Not only are the options at these places high in calories and low in nutrients… they can get expensive too!

At the Drive-Thru:

Fast food restaurants may seem like the inexpensive choice at first. But when the whole family is hungry, it can get pricey. Check out what you could end up spending on one trip through the drive-thru.

  • 1 Bacon Cheeseburger Meal (fries and drink included) – $6.49
  • 1 Fried Chicken Sandwich Meal (fries and drink included) – $6.19
  • 2 Kids Meals- $3.19 each
  • Total = $19.06 plus tax

In addition to the cost, meals at fast food places are packed with sodium, fat, and calories. One sandwich can have over 500 calories and 1000 milligrams of sodium and a medium fountain drink can contain a quarter of a cup of sugar.

At the Gas Station:

Gas stations and convenience stores may be quick and easy, but it will be hard to find healthy options.

  • 2 bags of chips – $1.99 each
  • 2 candy bars – $1.39 each
  • 2 sodas – $1.79 each
  • 2 bottles of juice -$1.99 each
  • Total = $14.32 plus tax

You could spend almost $20 for food that isn’t very filling. It won’t be long before hungry stomachs have you pulling over at another exit.

Even if you find healthy options on the road, you can count on spending more than if you bring food from home. A banana at a gas station costs about $1.00, you could bring 4 bananas from home for the same price.

From Your Cooler:

Take control of your road trip! Fill up a cooler with snacks before you leave. You can choose healthy options, and you’ll save money that you can use for other fun adventures on your trip. Check out this meal:

  • 4 turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread – $5.44
  • 2 apples- $1.58
  • 2 bananas- $0.38
  • 4 low fat cheese sticks- $1.42
  • 1 package of baby carrots- $1.28
  • Ice water in reusable bottles – FREE
  • Total = $10.10

Just like that, you’ve made a meal that keeps everyone full and happy for half the price. You can rest easy on your trip knowing that your family got the nutrition they needed. Now, bring on the open road!

Maddie
ISU Student

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Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos

August 3rd, 2015

breakfast-burritosWhen breakfast time rolls around each morning, I am very hungry. This is a good thing because it is certain that I will eat the most important meal of the day. The problem is that my husband and children are not big breakfast eaters – they are satisfied with milk, fruit, and cereal or toast. That is just not enough for me, especially now that I am expecting child #3.

To solve my problem, I looked to our August recipe – Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos. I make a batch of the burritos, freeze them, and then grab one out of the freezer and reheat when I need it. These are perfect for me on the mornings when I need more to eat than the rest of my family. On top of that, these burritos are full of the nutrients I need to keep myself and my baby healthy. I get fiber, vitamins, and minerals from the vegetables and whole wheat tortillas, protein from the eggs, and calcium from the cheese.

Even if you are not a big breakfast eater, this recipe is still great because it cuts down on breakfast prep and clean up time. Busy fall schedules are going to be starting up again, so this recipe gives you a quick, yet filling, breakfast before you head off to work or school for the day. I think I am going to make another batch of these soon, so they are in the freezer when “back to school” time rolls around.

Enjoy!
Justine

Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Serving Size: 1 burrito | Serves: 8
Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos-webIngredients: 
  •  Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup potatoes, diced (1 medium potato)
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced (1/2 medium onion)
  • 1 cup bell peppers, diced (1 medium pepper)
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup 2% fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 flour tortillas (8″)
Instructions: 
  1. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Cook the potatoes for 6-10 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and peppers to the potatoes. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the potatoes are browned.
  3. Add beaten eggs to the vegetable mixture. Cook for 4-5 minutes over medium heat. Stir off and on until there is no liquid.
  4. Stir in the garlic powder and pepper.
  5. Roll up each burrito. Use 2 tablespoons of cheese and 1/2 cup of the egg mixture. Serve or freeze.
  6. You can freeze the burritos. Wrap each burrito tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Seal wrapped burritos in a freezer bag when they are frozen.
To reheat the frozen burritos. Remove the plastic wrap. Wrap burrito in a damp paper towel. Set microwave on medium power. Heat burrito for 3-4 minutes.
Tips:
  •  Wash hands after handling raw eggs and before making burritos.
  • Wash vegetables under running water.
  • Add hot peppers, salsa, or cayenne pepper for a spicier burrito.

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Peanut Butter Balls

July 6th, 2015

peanut-butter-ballsMy children are at an age when they need to eat two snacks every day. Just last week I skipped the morning snack one day because we went to the library and on a bike ride. By lunch time both of them were laying on the couch crying. I made a quick lunch, got them fed, and all was good again, but it reminded me how important snack time is for young children. Their bodies are growing, but their stomachs are still small, so they need their food spaced evenly throughout the day.

If you are looking for a new snack for your family, try out our July recipe – Peanut Butter Balls. They have peanut butter, beans, and oatmeal – all of which will give you energy and fill you up until your next meal. After I make this recipe, I lay the peanut butter balls out on a cookie sheet and freeze them for about an hour. Once they are frozen, I put them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer. When snack time comes around, I grab two out of the freezer for each person, let them thaw for a few minutes, and then we enjoy them.

I hope you enjoy this Peanut Butter Ball recipe too!

-Justine

Peanut Butter Balls

Serving Size: 2 balls | Serves: 25
Ingredients: 
  • 1 can (15 ounces) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oatspeanut-butter-ball-label
Instructions: 
  1. Mash the great northern beans with a fork in a bowl until smooth.
  2. Add the honey and vanilla. Stir.
  3. Add peanut butter. Stir until blended.
  4. Stir in the oatmeal.
  5. Wash hands. Use a tablespoon to scoop up some of the peanut butter mixture. Shape the mixture into balls (makes 50 balls).
  6. Store leftover balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Tips: 
  •  This recipe is not for children under age 1 because it contains honey and peanut butter.
  • You can use a blender or food processor to mix ingredients before shaping into balls.
  • You can store peanut butter balls in the freezer. Lay them out on a cookie sheet, freeze, and then store in a freezer bag. Thaw for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Make fruit kebabs using a toothpick or kebab stick. Add washed fresh fruit pieces that will not brown such as kiwi slices, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and orange slices.

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Homemade Popsicles

June 29th, 2015

If you are looking for a delicious, yet healthy dessert for your Fourth of July celebration, try homemade popsicles. My family enjoys popsicles this time of year (or any other time of year for that matter).

I am excited to share our tasty apricot pop recipe! Simply pour a can of apricots (drained) and two cartons of vanilla yogurt into a blender. Blend the mixture together and then pour into popsicle molds or into paper cups with wooden sticks.

For festive, patriotic pops, you can switch up the color by replacing the apricots with another fruit:

  • Red: 2 cups strawberries, finely chopped
  • White: 2 medium bananas, finely chopped
  • Blue: 2 cups blueberries

Just like with the apricot pops, combine the fruit and the yogurt in the blender and blend until smooth then pour into popsicle molds. If you do not have a blender that is no problem, simply stir the fruit and yogurt together and pour into the molds – the color and texture will be different, but the flavor will still be great.

Have a happy Fourth of July!

-Justine

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Snacks for the Pool

June 22nd, 2015

Summer is in full swing and my children love spending time at the swimming pool. My son really likes getting a treat at the pool snack bar. I let him get a treat every once in a while but I balance that by bringing our own snacks the other times. Depending on how often you go to the pool, the cost of getting treats can add up. And the options are not always very healthy. My son and daughter really need an afternoon snack, but if they are swimming actively in the hot sun, I don’t want to give them heavy foods. Here are some snacks I like to take from home.

  1. Frozen fruit-For a sweet treat, freeze grapes, blueberries, or individual containers of unsweetened applesauce. Put in a cooler or an insulated bag and let thaw slightly while playing in the water.
  1. Whole grain crackers-These are a good option in place of chips and can provide more fiber.
  1. String cheese-Along with the whole grain crackers, enjoy some string cheese for added calcium. Keep them cold in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack.
  1. Trail Mix-This is a breeze to make. Here are a couple of options Popcorn Trail Mix and Take-along Trail Mix. For children under age 3, it is best to make without peanuts and dried fruit to reduce choking.
  1. Muffins-Make a batch of muffins and freeze them. Then thaw out when you need a quick snack. With strawberries that are in season, try these Super Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins. Put these in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack to keep them from getting too hot and sticky at the pool.
  1. To stay hydrated, fill reusable water bottles with water and ice cubes made out of 100% juice. (Check out the June 8 blog for more tips on hydration.)

Enjoy your time at the pool this summer!

Jodi Signature

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Water 2.0

June 8th, 2015

fruit water strawberry lemon drinksThe weather is heating up and our humid Iowa summer is just around the corner. It’s easy to turn to sugary drink mixes, sports drinks and juice boxes in the summer because they’re convenient and tasty. The problem with these is that they can be really expensive and also high in sugar. Ads would have us think that whenever we sweat we need to have a sports drink to recover. Thirst is a sign that your body needs to be hydrated, but water will do the trick unless you are doing a super intense workout!

If you’re like me, plain old water may not be for you. I like to improve it a bit and add a little flavor! Here are some Water 2.0 ideas to try out this summer.

  1. Freeze 100% juice in ice cube trays. Add it to plain water for a kick of fruit juice flavor for less sugar and calories than a full glass of juice.
  2. Put cut up fruit in a large pitcher of water in the refrigerator – it only takes a small amount of fruit (think one sliced lemon or lime) to flavor a large container of water.
  3. Make water as easy to grab as a juice box by keeping reusable bottles in the fridge where little hands can reach them.

The USDA 10 tips nutrition series has helpful recommendations about making beverage choices for your family. Can you guess what tip #1 is?

Happy Summer!

s Signature-1

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Summer Grilling on a Budget

May 18th, 2015

woman grilling outside meals cookingOur weather in Iowa has really warmed up lately and I’ve been firing up the grill a couple of times each week. The outdoor grill is a great tool for eating healthy and if you plan well, you can also save time and money. Here are a couple of tips for using your grill the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. way!

  1. Make the most of a hot grill. Every time you heat up your grill, you’re using fuel, either charcoal or propane. Make the most of that fuel by filling the grill, not just cooking one or two things. I like to fill one side of my grill with meat like chicken, hamburgers or pork chops. I put veggies on the other side. Zucchini (cut in half the long way), asparagus, sliced onions and large pieces of pepper grill very well. I pack up any leftovers for future meals. If I won’t get to them within 4 days, I freeze them in freezer bags. If I know I have tasty grilled meals in my fridge or freezer, I am far less likely to grab take out on the way home from work.
  1. Stretch meat by mixing with other foods. Grilling doesn’t have to be all about meat. The most expensive ingredient in a lot of meals is the meat. You can cut down on this cost by mixing the meat with whole grains like brown rice and additional protein sources like black beans. I love to season grilled chicken with spices like chili powder and cumin and then mix them with brown rice, black beans, grilled peppers and onions. I sprinkle a little hot sauce and shredded cheese on top and I’ve got a delicious, healthy meal!

I hope these tips will help you make your grill work a little harder for you!

Happy grilling!

s Signature-1

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Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry

May 4th, 2015

beef-and-veggie-stire-fryDo you ever crave take-out food? When I was in college I used to order take-out at least once a week – sandwiches, pizza, or Asian. It tasted so good and it was convenient. Unfortunately, now I live in a small town and my take out choices are almost non-existent. On top of that, I have a family of four, and take-out every week would take a lot of money out of our budget. So, when I am craving take-out, I try to re-create my favorites with fresh (and budget friendly) recipes at home. Our recipe for the month of May is Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry and it tastes better than take-out.

To make this recipe come together quickly, wash and chop the vegetables in advance when you have a little extra time. Broccoli, carrots, peppers, onion, and celery can all be washed, chopped, and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to five days until you are ready to use them. Also, the next time you make rice, double or triple the amount you need and freeze the extra in freezer bags. Then, when you need rice for another recipe all you need to do is re-heat.

If there are any leftovers, this recipe stores well in the refrigerator. I think it tastes even better re-heated for a quick lunch the next day.

 

Enjoy!

-Justine

Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups stir fry, 2/3 cup instant brown rice
Serves: 4
Ingredients: 
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 pound lean beef or pork, sliced thinly against the grain
  • 2 cups uncooked instant brown rice (or whole wheat noodles)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 7 cups chopped vegetables (like carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions) or 24 ounces frozen stir fry vegetables, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Instructions: 
  1. Mix ginger, garlic powder, soy sauce, and water. Pour ¼ cup of the mix into a sealable plastic bag and save the rest. Add meat to the bag. Seal the bag and set it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
  2. Prepare brown rice according to directions on the package for 4 servings.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. When oil is hot, add meat from plastic bag and stir until brown. This will take 1 to 3 minutes. Discard liquid from the bag.
  4. Remove meat from pan and cover it. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to pan.
  5. Add chopped hard vegetables when oil is hot. Stir and cook them for 3 minutes. Add chopped soft vegetables. Stir and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add cornstarch to the saved ginger mixture and stir until smooth.
  7. Return meat to the pan when vegetables are tender. Add cornstarch mixture and cook for about 2 minutes until bubbly.
  8. Serve over brown rice.
Tips: 
  • Wash hands and fresh produce under running water. Trim, peel, and core vegetables using a clean knife and clean cutting board. Then chop or slice the produce.
  • Add a few drops of hot sauce to the ginger mixture if you like a spicy flavor.
  • The meat is easier to cut into strips if you freeze it for 20 minutes.

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Half My Plate, Really?

April 27th, 2015

myplate_greenIt’s no surprise that healthy eating includes fruits and vegetables. In fact, MyPlate recommendations say we should make half of our plate fruits and veggies at each meal. For adults, that is about 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. For children, 1 ½ cup of fruit and 1 ½ cup of veggies will meet their daily needs.

As you plan your week’s meals, this can seem overwhelming particularly if you have a picky eater at your house. Here are some tips to make fruits and veggies a fun part of every meal.

  1. Mix it up – choose a variety of fruits and vegetables to purchase each week. Fresh, canned and frozen varieties are all nutritious. When shopping for canned fruits, choose those packed in water as opposed to syrup. Here are some examples of fruit and veggie combinations that are $10 or less.
  2. Work veggies into your family’s favorites. Whether it is mac and cheese, pizza or chili, there is always room for a veggie boost.
  • Add frozen mixed veggies or broccoli to macaroni during the last 3 minutes of cooking time.
  • Top pizzas with spinach leaves, chopped tomatoes and peppers.
  • Boost your chili’s flavor and nutrition with chopped peppers or grated carrots.
  1. Don’t forget about breakfast! Start your day off right with fruits and veggies.
  • Serve fresh or canned fruit as a breakfast side dish, so quick and easy!
  • Smoothies are a fun way to work fruit into breakfast that children tend to enjoy. Here is a recipe for tasty and easy fruit smoothies.
  • For busy mornings, have breakfast ready in the freezer! Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos are ready in no time and they include veggies. Serve fruit on the side and you’re well on your way to a healthy day.
  1. We’re not far from the growing season here in Iowa. When fruits and veggies are in season in your area, they will likely be at their peak of flavor and lowest price.

For more tips on meeting your family’s fruit and veggie needs, check out this video!

s Signature-1

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