Tacos are a go to meal for my family. They make the menu almost every week. Our May recipe is a delicious way to change up the typical taco routine. In our lentil taco recipe, lentils are used in place of meat or fish because they are quick and easy to cook and they are inexpensive.
If you have not yet cooked with lentils, this is the perfect recipe to start with. Start by rinsing and sorting your lentils to remove any dirt or other debris. Then simmer the lentils with onion, seasonings, and water for about 30 minutes. Spoon the lentils onto corn tortillas and serve with your favorite taco toppings.
Add lentils to your grocery list this week and try out lentil tacos for your Cinco de Mayo celebration!
With the weather warming up here in the Midwest, gardens are being planted and farmers markets will open soon. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on fresh fruits and vegetables that will be in season. Strawberries and watermelon just say ‘summer’ to me! Adults and children need 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit per day for good health. In my family we usually eat fruit for breakfast or for snacks. There are some recipes on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. that make eating fruit really fun for kids including Fruit Slush, Frozen Fruit Cups, or Fruit Kabobs & Yogurt. These recipes are flexible and can be made with different combinations of fruit depending on what you like and what you have on hand.
Last week I wrote about making breakfast foods for supper. I ended up making the French Toast one night and it was a hit with my family, especially my 2-year-old daughter. We have a number of breakfast recipes on our website that could be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or supper. I’m not much of a cereal eater but I really like the Crispy Granola. You can make it to your liking by adding different kinds of nuts and dried fruit. Breakfast Splits are a fun one for kids or to have when guests are over. You can set out bananas, different flavors of yogurt, different cereals, chopped fruit and nuts and each person can make their own splits. And my favorite breakfast recipe is our Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos. I make a batch to put in the freezer. Then I can grab one out and quickly heat it in the microwave to enjoy on busy mornings. You can also find me enjoying one at supper some nights when I’m not up to cooking!
Recently my husband got groceries and came home with a carton of 18 eggs. I usually only buy a dozen eggs so I asked him if he had something planned for all the eggs. He didn’t so I started thinking of how I was going to use them. I know it’s only 6 more eggs but it seemed like a lot of eggs to use! After eggs are purchased, they can be stored in their original carton in the refrigerator for 3-5 weeks. Usually the “sell-by” date on the carton will expire during that storage period, but the eggs will remain safe to use. I could make hard-cooked eggs or egg salad, but I’ve had my fill of those for a while after all the hard-cooked eggs at Easter! What came to mind next was to make breakfast for supper. Scrambled Egg Muffins, Easy Quiche, or French Toast are all tasty ways to use up the eggs and change up what we have for supper. And my kids like smoothies so I could serve Fruit Smoothie to get in a serving or two of fruit. No sleeping in past this breakfast!
Last year I wrote a blog on menu planning and mentioned that my son’s famous first words after we got home at night were, “I’m hungry.” Now that my daughter is two, I have two kiddos telling me this! Therefore, I find meal planning even more important so I can get a healthy meal on the table fast. Since I find it so helpful, I’d like to share tips for successful meal planning again.
- Determine what meals you will plan. Since the meal my family eats together is supper that is the meal I spend time to plan. However, you can plan for breakfast, lunch, supper or snacks. I go to the grocery store once a week so I plan my meals a week at a time. You might choose to plan them for more or fewer days.
- Write the plan on a calendar. I write my meal plan on a calendar that hangs in my kitchen. This calendar includes other family activities so I know if we will be gone for a meal at night or have a really rushed evening. My husband knows to look at the calendar to see what we are having. If you use an online calendar for planning activities, you could also write your meals there.
- Check what you have on hand. Check your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards for foods that need to be used up in the next few days. Think of ways to include these items in your meals. I always plan a night to have leftovers so they don’t go to waste.
- Review the grocery ads for specials you can use. Save money by purchasing items on sale that you can pair with the foods you have on hand to help complete your meals.
- Keep a list of the recipes your family likes best. Having a list helps make meal planning go really quickly because you can easily spot the recipes that use things you have on hand or are on sale. Some recipes my family likes are Lentil Tacos and Chicken Alfredo Pasta.
To help you get started, check out our Meal Planning Calendar. This week-long menu features recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.
This month on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we have been talking about setting goals in the new year. To be completely honest, setting goals is really hard for me right now with a new baby at home. But, in the spirit of the new year, I am going to set a public goal and you can all hold me accountable for sticking with it.
So, here it is: This year, I will drink 12 cups of fluids each day.
Drinking enough fluids is hard for me because I do not remember to do it. Then, by the end of the day, I am thirsty and I have a headache. Since I am nursing my baby, I need to make sure to get enough fluids for the both of us. I need to have enough fluids to make enough milk for my baby while at the same time preventing myself from getting dehydrated. My plan is to drink one cup of milk with each meal and then keep my water bottle within reach for the rest of the day. Thankfully, my water bottle has measurements on the side, so I know how much water I am getting throughout the day.
I have chosen this goal because I know that getting enough fluids, especially water, is essential to overall health. Most people need 10-15 cups of fluid each day. We get about 20% of that fluid from the foods we eat, especially fruits and vegetables. We have to drink the remaining 80%, which is about 8-12 cups. I need to drink about 12 cups (the upper limit) because I am nursing; this amount is not necessary for most people.
I think it is going to take some time, but, with a little practice, I am confident that I can meet my goal. I wish you the best of luck on the goal you have set for yourself in the new year!
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……
It’s that time of year again when we tend to look at how we can live just a little bit healthier in the new year. For me, this means making more time for exercise throughout my day. I do alright with getting my workouts in, but I spend most of my day at a desk and I would like to work in some breaks to get my body moving throughout the day. Our bodies are not meant to be in a sitting position all day, it can damage our posture and even affect breathing. Being active for just ten minutes can help boost mental focus and increase energy.
I plan to use a strategy called SMART goals to make this happen. A goal is SMART if it is:
Specific – It identifies a specific action that will take place.
Measurable – it’s easily measured, I can tell when I’ve done it.
Achievable – it can be accomplished with my current resources.
Realistic – though the goal will stretch me, it is possible for me to do it.
Timely – the goal includes a specific timeline for accomplishing it.
So here’s my goal!
I will walk briskly for at least ten minutes three times per week while I’m at work. I will walk in the halls of our building when it is cold and snowy and outside once the weather gets nicer.
I’ve taken some steps to increase my likelihood of success:
- I have comfy shoes at the office.
- I have told my colleagues about my goal so they can keep me honest.
- I have a chart to track my progress and help me remember to work in my walks.
This month’s blog posts are all about setting goals for the new year. Share your goals with us on Facebook! Sometimes letting just one other person know your goal can help you stay accountable.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2016!
Thanksgiving 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 Wall is a registered dietitian and Iowa native who enjoys family, friends, food, and the Cyclones!
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.
- 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.
- Whole grain crackers-These are a good option in place of chips and can provide more fiber.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!