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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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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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A Healthier Me in 2016: A Dietitian’s Goal

Are you curious what New Year’s goal a dietitian might set? Well, it may surprise you but my goal is to increase my vegetable intake by eating more vegetables for snacks. I eat vegetables daily, but mostly at lunch and supper. However, I don’t always get in the 2 ½ cups I need each day. The snacks I bring to work most often are fruit or whole grain crackers. These are perfectly healthy snacks that I will continue to eat but I will also swap out one a few times each week for vegetables. My SMART goal for 2016 is, ‘I will eat 1 cup of vegetables as a snack 3 times per week’. If you would like a reminder of what a SMART goal is, visit last week’s blog.

Here is a list of some of the vegetables I plan to eat as snacks:

  • Baby carrots with hummus dip (try our After School Hummus)
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Broccoli and cauliflower with a bit of Ranch dressing
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Leftover roasted vegetables (Easy Roasted Veggies)

Some people might be surprised that I plan to eat Ranch dressing with my vegetables. However, I’m much more likely to eat them if I have a dip to go with them. And a couple of tablespoons of dip is not going to add so much fat or sodium that it outweighs the benefit of eating the vegetables.

To help me reach my goal, I plan to use our Veggie Tasting Party recipe and prep my vegetables at the start of each week so they are ready to go when I need them.

Now to eat my baby carrots and hummus dip……

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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What’s In Season Now?

pomegranate fruit whole and cutIt’s that time of year when my son asks me to buy pomegranates when he sees them in the grocery store because he so enjoys eating pomegranate seeds. I think it might have something to do with whacking the fruit to get the seeds to fall out. My 2-year old daughter is now a fan of them also. They are quite tasty and fun to eat… if only the seeds were easier to get to! Here is a video that shows how to get them out without making a mess!

These days I’m also filling my grocery cart with clementines, oranges, and kiwi fruit. They are in season now, so their price is low and they taste great. While these fruits are in season during the winter, some fruits and vegetables are in season year round. These include bananas, apples, carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes. These fruits and vegetables can be found at reasonable prices and with good flavor all year long. When you want or need a fruit or vegetable that is not in season, consider canned or frozen versions for a better buy. Choose fruits canned in their own juice or water and vegetables canned without salt.

For more ideas on purchasing fruits and vegetables, check out our “How-To” videos.

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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Cooking with Venison

ThinkstockPhotos-499155002It is hunting season, so venison is a source of protein that is both inexpensive and easy to find.  Unfortunately, many people do not know how to cook with venison, so it goes to waste.   Venison is similar in structure and taste to beef and pork, so it can be substituted for beef or pork in most recipes.  If you have it, try one of our Spend Smart.Eat Smart. recipes (Skillet Lasagna or Meatloaf) with ground venison instead of ground beef.

Here are some interesting facts on venison (source:  The New Food Lover’s Companion):

  • People often think of deer when it comes to venison, but venison actually refers to meat from deer, elk, moose, reindeer, caribou, and antelope.
  • The quality of venison depends on many factors including the age of the animal (younger animals are more tender), what the animal eats, the time of year (fall is best), and the skill with which the animal was field dressed and transported.
  • Cuts of venison are similar to cuts of pork and beef when it comes to tenderness and cooking methods.  However, venison is somewhat less tender than beef or pork because the animal gets more exercise and, thus, has less fat and more muscle.  For more information on cooking methods, check out this poster from Penn State University Extension on the cuts and cooking methods for venison.
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Gifts from the Kitchen

With the holidays quickly approaching I’ve been making a list of who I need gifts for. I have to admit, some years I’m the person who is getting a gift right before I need it. However, this year I’m planning ahead because I’m excited to give my family and friends our Healthy and Homemade cookbook. On my dad’s side of the family we do a gift exchange among the adults. This year, I plan to take the Healthy and Homemade cookbook and tuck a grocery store gift card inside for the gift exchange.

I also like to give gifts of food! For my neighbors I like to bake breads to share with them.  This year I’m planning to make them our Banana Oatmeal Bread or our No Knead Whole Wheat Bread. Prepared foods that can be frozen also make great gifts, especially for those who don’t like to cook or aren’t able to. They can heat up the food and have a homemade dish in no time. Some good recipes for this are Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos or Skillet Lasagna.

Share the gift of good food that’s good for you!

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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Keep your Thanksgiving Dinner out of the Garbage

ThinkstockPhotos-99120786Thanksgiving will soon be upon us! This holiday causes me to reflect and be thankful for what I have. It also gets me thinking about what I take for granted on a daily basis that others would be grateful to have. One example of this is food. I have enough food, and sometimes too much, which can cause me to waste it at times.

The average daily food waste in the United States in 2010 was 1.18 pounds of food per person. This leaves us plenty of room for improvement! I am going to approach Thanksgiving being mindful of how much food my family is preparing. I also plan to use this holiday as an opportunity to reduce the amount of food we are wasting by following the tips below.

My four tips to reduce food waste at Thanksgiving:

1. Consider purchasing a turkey breast rather than an entire turkey. The turkey breast can be cooked in a shorter amount of time, is easier to cut and prepare, and results in fewer leftovers.

2. Keep your sides simple – less is more. Focus on two or three great side dishes rather than the “full spread”. This will save you time and  stress. Three of my favorite side dishes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.:

•  Zesty Whole Grain Salad: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/zesty-whole-grain-salad
  Easy Roasted Veggies: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/easy-roasted-veggies
•  No Knead Whole Wheat Bread: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/no-knead-whole-wheat-bread

3. Pack up leftovers to eat later. For safety, leftovers should be chilled to below 40 degrees within two hours of when they finish cooking. If your family will eat the leftovers within four days, store them in the refrigerator. If you will not, freeze them. Click here for ideas for using that leftover turkey, pumpkin and chopped veggies.

4. Donate to those in need: Find your local food bank, and donate excess or unused food to those in need. Or even better yet, consider donating a few dollars to your local food bank or pantry.

Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving and enjoy doing more with less!

Rachel
Rachel Wall is a registered dietitian and Iowa native who enjoys family, friends, food, and the Cyclones!

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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What Are ‘Ancient Grains’?

quinoa seed grainsThere is no official definition of ‘ancient grains’. However, the Whole Grains Council defines ancient grains loosely as grains that are largely unchanged over the last several hundred years. Therefore, modern wheat, which has been bred and changed over time, is not an ancient grain. Grains like quinoa, amaranth, Kamut®, spelt, farro, millet, and teff would be considered ancient grains.

Here is some information about 3 of the more common ancient grains:

Quinoa: A versatile grain that cooks quickly and is good in soups, salads, and baked goods. Quinoa is a small round grain that is similar in appearance to sesame seeds. It is also high in protein.

Kamut®: It is a large, oversized grain that is two to three times bigger than wheat. It has a rich, buttery flavor and is easily digested.

Farro: This grain is popular in Italy. It is a dark, earthy grain that is often used in salads and risottos.

Ancient grains are certainly healthier than refined grain products like white bread or refined crackers. However, healthy whole grains do not need to be exotic. Common foods like brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, popcorn, and whole wheat bread offer many health benefits and often at lower prices. To get the different nutrients each grain has to offer and balance cost, eat a variety of grain foods.

Try an ‘ancient grain’ like quinoa or Kamut® in our Zesty Whole Grain Salad.

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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How to Cut Cauliflower

cauliflower whole slicedCauliflower is a loved vegetable in my home, especially by my daughter and I. We could eat it every day! There are many benefits to choosing cauliflower at the grocery store:

  • It yields a lot: one head of cauliflower cut up can yield six cups, or more, of florets. It is an easy way to get my family the vegetables they need.
  • It is nutritious: cauliflower is rich in vitamin C. This time of year we do not have access to a lot of citrus fruits, which we typically think of as the best way to get vitamin C. So, we can get our vitamin C from cauliflower.
  • It can be eaten several different ways: raw, steamed, or roasted. Raw cauliflower is great to dip in hummus, vegetable dip, or salad dressing. Roasting cauliflower brings out its sweetness – watch this video for an easy way to roast vegetables.

The one thing I do not like about cauliflower is cutting it up. It is hard to cut up and it leaves a big mess. Here is the method I have started using to cut up my cauliflower in an effort to have bite-sized pieces without the big mess:

  1. Wash the cauliflower under running water using a scrub brush to remove any visible dirt. Pat dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel.
  2. Place cauliflower on a large cutting board. Pull off or cut off the leaves. Use a sharp knife to cut around the center stem.
  3. Break off the larger florets, then break off as many bite sized florets as possible.
  4. For the remaining florets, cut into bite sized pieces. This is where it gets messy, so I try to contain the mess by working with small pieces and putting them directly into a container.
  5. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

I hope you enjoy the next cauliflower you get from the store.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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