Archive

Archive for the ‘eat’ Category

It’s Not Just School Lunch. It’s Bigger Than That.

October 14th, 2013

school lunch

This year my daughter started kindergarten. And honestly one of my biggest concerns was if she was going to be hungry throughout the day. Going from daycare and preschool to kindergarten is a huge adjustment for various reasons. I was particularly concerned about the change in foods available to her and how much time she would have to eat. The thought of her having fifteen minutes to eat lunch and no snacks was a little scary!

In preparation for her first day, we went shopping for a backpack. She was amazed not only at the selection of back packs, but the selection of the lunch bags. I was pretty shocked myself! Also, the books we read to prepare her for the first day of school all referenced the character bringing a lunch from home. Based on back to school shopping and children’s books, one would think that bringing a lunch from home was the norm. But in reality, approximately 80% of all students enrolled in Iowa schools participate in school meals each day. 1

With that in mind, I wanted her to try school meals for the first week. This would give her the opportunity to learn the process while everyone else did. Every day after school I ask her what she had for lunch. As the weeks have gone by she has been excited to share with me the fruits and vegetables she has chosen and even eaten at school. It’s a simple thing I do each day that often opens up a conversation about her entire day, which I was having a hard time getting her to share.  “I tried zucchini slices today and really liked them!” “Oh, and I was picked the best singer of the day!” It’s fun to see how a simple conversation about school lunch can really lead to a great conversation with a 5 year old! She has expanded the things she will eat at home and I truly believe it is connected to her positive experience with school meals.

National School Lunch Week is this week and is an observance to celebrate the benefits of healthy school lunches! School meals are doing a better job of giving your kids the healthy foods they need. Help your child check out school meals and discover what they like. Here are some tips to help your children eat healthy foods at school and at home:

    • Make time to join your child for lunch in the school cafeteria. It will provide you a first-hand experience of school meals and grow a deeper appreciation for teachers, school staff, and nutrition staff.
    • Explain to your child the options they have each day at school for lunch.
    • When your child gets home from school, ask what he/she ate for lunch.
    • Eat meals at home with your child as much as you can. Let your child see you eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy.
    • Provide some of the new foods offered in the school cafeteria at home.  Some examples include: whole grain foods, spinach, cherry tomatoes, black beans, sweet potatoes, and zucchini slices.
    • Take your child grocery shopping with you and talk to them about where foods come from. Let your children make healthy purchases while at the store.

For more information including how to get involved at your school, school lunch myths, healthy snack ideas, visit: http://schoolmeals.educateiowa.gov.

Guest Blogger,

Carrie

1 Iowa School Nutrition Association Annual Child Nutrition Report, March 2013

eat, plan, resources , , ,

It’s Worth a Little Mess

September 30th, 2013

kids in kitchenMy 3 ½ year old son Parker loves to help me in the kitchen. When he realizes I’m cooking, he quickly goes and gets his stool so he can stand and help me. Even though cooking takes longer, and we make more messes, I enjoy spending time with him in the kitchen. He is a picky eater, so when he helps me prepare different foods, he is more likely to try them.

Some tasks that Parker likes to help me with are pouring ingredients in the bowl, stirring ingredients, breaking eggs, putting toppings on homemade pizza, and scooping batter into muffin tins. He likes to have me read him the recipe so we also work on following directions and counting.

There are numerous benefits to having children help in the kitchen. As I mentioned before, it exposes them to new foods and helps them become more willing eaters. Helping in the kitchen also improves children’s fine motor skills, increases their confidence, and gives them an opportunity to work on learning colors, shapes, and counting.

Our new video “How to Include Children in the Kitchen”  has helpful information on how to get children involved in the kitchen, from helping cook to helping unload the dishwasher. Check it out to see how much fun we had cooking with kids along with some tips to get your kids excited about cooking.

Another helpful resource, full of recipes that your children can help you make, is ‘Let’s Cook with Kids’ created by the Northeast Valley Health Corporation WIC Program in California.

How do your children like to help you in the kitchen?

Jodi Signature

eat, food preparation , , , ,

Label Claims: What they Mean

September 16th, 2013

Various labels and health claims cover food packaging these days. Some labels and health claims are regulated by the FDA, while others are simply advertising. Deciphering labels can be confusing and the laws and regulations behind them are even more confusing. After completing a course in Food Law this summer I thought I would try to simplify and clear up some confusion about “organic” versus “natural” labeled products.

Organic:USDA logo postit

Definition:“foods that are grown and processed with minimal synthetic materials”

Regulated by the USDA. There are regulated synthetic substances that may be used as well as  nonsynthetic substances that cannot be used in the production of “organic” products.

100% Organic: In order for a product to be labeled “100% organic” it must be grown and handed in an establishment that has been certified by the National Organic Program.

Made with organic ingredients: For a product to be labeled as “made with organic ingredients” it must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients.

Only certain ingredients produced organically: May not display the USDA seal shown below, but may identify individual ingredients that were produced organically. For example, “ Made with organic carrots.”

Natural:

Definition: By law, there is not one! This label is not regulated.
There are no limitations to using the term “natural” if the food “does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances”.

Understanding what these labels mean can help you be a savvy shopper and avoid getting tricked by misleading labels. The most important thing is to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein. It is a personal choice whether eating organic is important to you. Keep in mind that there are many foods that are high in fat, sodium and sugar that are also certified organic. Reading the nutrition facts label is the only way to really know how healthy a food is for you and your family.

 organic quiz 2

Click here to go to our facebook page for the answers!

Guest Blogger,

Elizabeth Breuer

eat, resources , , , ,

Do it Yourself Meal Kits for Kids

September 9th, 2013

Better Nutrition, Lower Cost, and Less Waste

The commercials for ready-to-go meal kits for kids, make them look like fun and excitement in a box. The reality is a little different. There is no arguing with the fact that these meal kits are convenient, but are you really getting a good value for your money?

Take a look inside the box, not so appetizing. Let’s take a look at what I got for my money.

NEWnutrition facts and ingredients

Ingredients – We’ve all heard that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Take a look at this ingredient list.

Nutrition – Meal kits typically contain far more sodium, saturated fat, and sugar than kids need in a meal. Most include no fruits or vegetables at all. Take a look at this nutrition facts label from a store bought meal kit. The calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium are quite high.

Waste – Imagine the amount of garbage these packages generate in a school cafeteria!

Cost – The average price for meal kits at my store was $2.79. This is actually more expensive than school lunch at most schools and far less nutritious.

sodium chart larger

I decided to challenge myself to come up with some healthy DIY versions of these meal kits that would be easy to prepare and just as fun for kids.

I started with some reusable containers that had dividers like the meal kits’ disposable boxes and an ice pack to keep the food cold. I also set some rules for myself:

  • Create boxes that follow MyPlate guidelines.
  • Use only items that can be packed on Sunday and keep fine until Friday. I’m only packing lunches once!
  • Use only items that require minimal preparation like cutting or chopping.

DIY lunchable

Check out the list below for some foods from each food group that work with my rules.

chart green
My meal kit has much more color, nutrition and appeal than the store bought one and I bought the ingredients for 10 kits like this (assuming two kids with five lunches each) for less than $20.00. That’s less than $2.00 per kit. Assuming kids will purchase milk at school to go with their DIY meal kits; the price is just below the price of the store bought ones.

The National School Lunch Program at your child’s school provides convenient, nutritious meals for a great value, but these ready-to-go DIY meal kits are a good option for kids who prefer to bring their lunch.

 s Signature-1

 

eat, food preparation, plan , , , ,

Labor Day Meal Plan

August 26th, 2013

Labor Day Meal, serves 4 for less than $3.50 a person!

Labor day is quickly approaching! This national holiday on the first Monday of September results in a long weekend filled with relaxing, picnics, and spending time with family and friends. This simple menu is easy to prepare and easy on your wallet.

labor day menu plan

 

New labor day label

I put together this menu plan with a day of soaking up sun with friends and family in mind. The pita pocket is easy to eat on the go and provides the perfect opportunity to light up the grill or use stovetop and avoid turning on the oven in the heat. The carrots and whole wheat pita chips are finger foods that are packed with vitamins to keep everyone fueled throughout the day. The dessert will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth while featuring any fresh fruit that is in season.

The total cost of this meal is only $13.85. This breaks down to $3.46 per person.

Click here for recipes! I have separated the recipes into two sections, the first is recipes to prepare the night before serving the meal and the second is recipes to prepare the day of serving the meal.

Guest Blogger,

Liz Breuer

eat, food preparation, recipes , , , ,

Vegetable Oils – Comparison, Cost, and Nutrition

August 19th, 2013

As I was reaching for the canola oil in my cupboard last week while doing some baking, I got to looking at the different oils I have on hand. The canola oil and olive oil are at the front of the cupboard because those are the ones I use most often but I also have peanut oil and sesame oil. Some may wonder, like my husband, why I have four different kinds of oil. The kind of oil I use depends on what kind of food I’m preparing. For baking, I like to use canola oil but for roasting or sautéing vegetables, I use olive oil.

When deciding what kind of oil you are going to buy, consider three things 1) what it will be used for, 2) how much it costs, and 3) nutrition. Below is a comparison of commonly used oils. You’ll notice olive oil is more expensive than canola or vegetable oil, but keep in mind that typically recipes call for small amounts of olive oil so a bottle lasts a long time.

Type of Oil Uses Cost*** Unit price
(per fl oz)
Canola
(48 fluid oz)
Sautéing, baking, frying, marinating 3.59-4.59 .07-.09
Olive
(17 fl oz)
Grilling, sautéing, roasting, spreads for breads 7.69-7.99 .45-.47
Vegetable*
(48 fl oz)
Sautéing, baking, frying, marinating 3.18-4.39 .06-.09
Peanut
(24 fl oz)
Stir-frying, roasting, deep frying, baking 3.58-4.98 .15-.21
Sesame**
(8.45 fl oz)
(12.7 fl oz)
Stir-frying (light), dressings/sauces (dark) 5.89-7.89 .70-.62

*usually made from a combination of corn, soybeans, and/or sunflower seeds

**there are light and dark versions of sesame oil

***Costs were found at grocery stores in Central Iowa

Below is a chart that compares the nutritional value of different fats and oils. Saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol levels and are not heart-healthy. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated are considered the ‘good’ fats. Oils high in monounsaturated fats are particularly heart healthy because they lower LDL levels, the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol. Replacing the fats and oils that are higher in saturated and trans fats with those higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is good for your health.

oil comparison chart

I also noticed while in the grocery store a couple of new oil blends. There is a Natural Blend oil that is a combination of canola, sunflower, and soybean oil. It was $3.59 for a 48 fluid ounce bottle. The other new one I noticed was called Omega and was a combination of canola and extra virgin olive oil. It was $3.99 for a 48 fluid ounce bottle.

For best quality store your oil in a cool, dark place and replace it if it smells “bitter” or “off.”

Watch our recent ‘How To’ video and learn how to make your own salad dressing using the oils in your cupboard.

Jodi Signature

eat, resources , , ,

Tomato Time – Yum

August 5th, 2013

tomato and spinach pastaTomatoes are by far the most popular vegetable grown in our gardens, and for good reason. They are tasty, nutritious, versatile, relatively easy to grow, and return high value for the space they occupy.

I love tomatoes, especially those sweet cherry and grape ones that give you a burst of flavor when you bite into them. Our featured recipe this month packs a lot of flavor into a fresh tasting, light pasta dish.

When I make this dish I substitute basil for some of the spinach and when I have garden tomatoes, sometimes I use large tomatoes. When I use large tomatoes I take the seeds out and cut the tomatoes into large chunks before I roast them. I think you could grill the tomatoes instead of roasting them, but I haven’t tried this yet. I usually serve a green salad, fruit and milk with this dish. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta

Serving Size: 1¼ cups | Servings: 4

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta Label

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces) cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup oil (divided)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 cups fresh spinach or a 10 ounce bag frozen spinach, thawed
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

 

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Rinse the tomatoes under running water. Cut in half. Spread on greased baking pan.
  3. Sprinkle olive oil (2 tablespoons), salt, pepper, and garlic powder on tomatoes. Stir to coat.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Prepare spinach and spaghetti as tomatoes bake.
  5. Rinse fresh spinach in water, slice in strips OR thaw, drain, and pat dry the frozen spinach. Set aside.
  6. Follow package directions to cook spaghetti. Drain.
  7. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, Italian seasoning, spinach, and baked tomatoes to the spaghetti. Stir until heated through. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Peggy Signature

 

eat, recipes , , , , ,

Corn on the cob: A sure sign of Summer

July 15th, 2013

corn on the cobThere are many signs that summer is here including hot weather, full swimming pools, and sunlight until after 9 pm! Another sign is that sweet corn is starting to show up at the grocery stores, Farmers’ Markets, and street corners. We planted sweet corn on the farm I grew up on so seeing the sweet corn reminds me of my childhood. I’d spend a day or two in the kitchen with my mom, sister, and grandmas freezing sweet corn so we could enjoy eating it throughout the winter.

Currently, the price of a dozen ears of sweet corn at three different grocery stores in Central Iowa is $6/dozen. Local sweet corn is expected to be in the stores around July 15, later than normal because of the cold, wet spring in the Midwest. The local sweet corn will be a bit cheaper.

When selecting sweet corn, look for the following signs of quality:

  • Kernels that are plump. Do not choose ears with kernels that have begun to shrivel or ‘dent’.
  • Kernels that are ‘milky’ inside so that when pressed with the fingernail the juice pops out.
  • Depending on the variety, yellow corn should have a bright yellow color. White corn should be really white.
  • Husks which fit snugly around the ear, look fresh, and have good green color. Do not select ears with husks that are dried, yellowed, or straw-colored which are indications of age or damage.
  • Shiny dark brown silk is a sign of well-filled kernels. Silk ends should be free from decay or worm injury.

To get the best flavor from sweet corn, it should be eaten as soon as possible after harvesting because the sugars start converting to starches as soon as the corn is picked. If you need to store the sweet corn, leave the corn in the husk and refrigerate as soon as possible. If the corn has been husked, place it in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Corn that has been blanched and cut off the cob can be frozen for 6 months to a year.

Here are some tips for cooking with fresh sweet corn:

corn on the cob cut

  • Don’t add salt to the water when cooking sweet corn because it will toughen the corn.
  • Good, fresh sweet corn does not need to be cooked for long. Try cooking it for just 3 minutes, and see how delicious it can be.
  • Two to three medium ears of corn are equivalent to approximately 1 pound, depending on ear size. Two medium ears equal approximately 1 to 1 ½ cups of kernels.

For more tips and directions for microwaving, grilling, or boiling sweet corn, check out the Sunshine Sweet website.

Jodi Signature

eat, resources , , , ,

Save on your 4th of July Picnic

July 1st, 2013

Liz Veggie tray

Whether it is a Superbowl party, a bridal shower, 4th of July, or Christmas, vegetable trays are always on the table. Recently my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and their party was  no different; a vegetable tray was on the menu. My original instinct was to go with the convenience of a pre-made vegetable tray because I thought it would be comparable in price. Then Spend Smart asked me to compare the prices and time between homemade and purchased veggie trays. BOY WAS I SURPRISED! Preparing my own tray compared to buying the already assembled tray cost a third the cost of the assembled tray. For that savings I am willing to spend the 23 minutes it took me to prepare the vegetables.

Through this exercise, I learned some things I am going to use for the relish tray I am preparing for my 4th of July picnic. I am going to check out prices of vegetables at other stores to see if I can get a better price. If I have time I will check out a farmers market.

  • I am going to substitute green or red peppers for the celery. I like them better, the cost is about the same and the time to prepare them is less than the celery…that way I only have the broccoli to cut up.  I might also substitute olives or pickles for one of the other vegetables.
  • If all the vegetables I buy do not fit on my tray, I will just bag them up to use as snacks (they are already washed, chopped and ready to eat), or used them later in the week as a side such as a broccoli cauliflower salad.
  • If there are kids that want to help, this would be a good way to get them involved with a party.

A little planning in advance can save you a bunch of money when it comes to vegetables trays. (I wonder how much money is to be saved with fruit trays?)

Here is how I figured the cost:

1) First, went to the produce department and talked with an extremely helpful young woman about their prices for already made trays and the weight of each of the vegetables on the tray

2) I purchased each of the vegetables that were on the pre-made vegetables tray.

3) Twenty-three minutes later I finished washing, chopping, and weighing the vegetables.

veggie-tray-NEW
Food safety is extremely important, especially when you are feeding others. Here’s one of our new video that shows how easy it is to wash vegetables.

Liz Breuer

eat, food cost , , , ,

Should I Follow a Gluten Free Diet?

June 17th, 2013

As a dietetic intern, I get frequent questions about gluten free diets. Most of these questions have been prompted by articles on Facebook, websites and celebrity’s books. I can’t believe all the claims being made for gluten free diets such as, gluten free diets help with weight loss, increase energy and concentration, improve autism and rheumatoid arthritis, and in general are supposed to be healthier.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. Food we consume everyday like cookies, cakes, pizza, pasta, cereals and breads have gluten in them.

Approximately 1% of the population has a medical condition called celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine lining and  prevents absorption of nutrients from foods that are consumed. The damage is due to a reaction of eating gluten.

Most of us will not benefit from a gluten free diet. There is no current evidence that eating a gluten free diet will help with weight loss or is a healthier diet in general. In addition, not consuming these food products means you may be lacking essential nutrients like iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate and  fiber in your diet.

Interestingly, research has shown that gluten free products are higher in fat. Looking at the nutrition of a regular vs. a gluten free food product; 1 slice of regular multigrain bread has 120 calories, 1 gram of total fat and has 12% of your daily fiber intake and 15% of your daily intake of iron (based on 2,000 calorie diet). Gluten free multigrain bread has 80 calories, 3.5 grams of total fat, 4 % of your daily fiber intake and 2 % of your daily iron intake.

The cost of eating gluten free products is significantly higher. Gluten free products cost 242% more than regular products and lack variety. The graph below shows the food cost comparison of regular items vs. gluten free items.

Gluten Chart

So before you consider switching to a gluten free diet, consider saving money and eating non- gluten free foods that provide you with excellent nutrition and health benefits. Also, if you have symptoms of celiac disease (gas, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss/gain, fatigue) contact your healthcare provider to set up an appointment for appropriate screening.

The Mythbusters poster was created by an ISU nutrition class. Let’s bust the myths!

Print

True or False? 

Gluten free diet is a healthier diet for everyone.

Gluten free products have fewer calories.

Gluten containing grains contribute to more than 75% of typical daily grain consumption.

Celiac disease is a food allergy.

Celiac disease is easy to diagnosis.

Gluten free diet can compromise gut immunity.

Check back for the answers Tuesday, June 18, 2013 on our facebook page!  https://www.facebook.com/spendsmarteatsmart
Abbie Brekken, ISU Dietetic Intern

eat, resources , , ,