Archive for the ‘healthy living’ Category

MARCH into Spring

March 5th, 2014

family eatingMARCH into spring armed with habits that help you become your healthiest self. Consider these tips:

Move every day – Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily for better blood pressure, stress reduction, and weight control. This can include three 10-minute bouts of physical activity throughout the day. Choose activities you enjoy, raise your heart rate, build strength, and increase flexibility. An activity buddy can help you stay faithful to your plan.

Avoid Skipping Meals – When making a shopping list and planning meals, consider MyPlate ( Include healthy snacks (e.g., low fat yogurt, vegetables with low fat dip, whole grain bread with peanut butter) to meet your family’s nutritional needs. Healthy snacks sustain energy levels between meals and help you stay on track with your health goals.

Read food labels – Aim high (20% or more) for vitamins, minerals and fiber. Aim low (5% or less) for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. For more information on how to read a food label, watch the “Label Reading for Health” video at

Choose foods carefully – Become a smart shopper by reducing the amount of convenience foods eaten, choosing fruit canned in juice, and buying no salt added canned vegetables. When you are choosing foods, make half your plate fruits and vegetables and watch portion sizes.

Have family meals – Make family meal time a priority. Research shows family meals promote healthier eating. Eat as a family a few times each week. Set a regular mealtime and turn off the TV, computers, and phones. Have all family members help in meal planning and cooking.

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The Diet That Is All Fluff

February 5th, 2014

Many crazy diets appear in the headlines. Some recent offerings include the feeding tube diet and the tapeworm diet. The latest diet to make headlines is the cotton ball diet, and the science behind it resembles the structure of cotton—unsupportive fluff.

The diet involves consuming five cotton balls dipped in orange juice, lemonade, or a smoothie. The claim is that you will feel full without gaining weight. Some dieters consume these before their meal to limit calorie intake, while others rely exclusively on the cotton balls as their “food” intake.

Medical experts agree that nothing good can come of this diet, and in fact it is very dangerous for the following reasons:

  • Cotton balls may not be cotton—most are bleached polyester fibers that contain lots of chemicals
  • Eating synthetic cotton balls is similar to eating cloth, or even buttons or coins
  • Risks include choking, malnutrition, or even worse, a blockage in the intestinal tract, which can be life-threatening

A healthier and safer approach to feel full is to make sure you get plenty of fiber in your diet. Follow these tips to get the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day:

  • Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and peas), which are all good sources of fiber
  • Look at the Nutrition Facts Panel for a product’s fiber content—20 percent or more is considered high
  • Include fiber-rich foods with meals and snacks

For more information on how to safely achieve and maintain a healthy weight, visit MyPlate

Want to know more about choosing high fiber foods? Check out these resources:

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Herbs and spices – part II

August 6th, 2013

Last week we talked about the distinctive flavor of spices and herbs. Here’s some information on how to use them when cooking fruits and veggies and details on how to substitute fresh for dry or vice versa.

Can I substitute fresh for dry herbs and spices?

  • ¼ teaspoon powdered = ¼ to 1 teaspoon dried crumbled = 2 to 3 teaspoon fresh
  • Chop fresh herbs fine to allow for more flavor to be released.
If you are cooking: Try flavoring it with:
Asparagus Caraway, mustard, nutmeg, tarragon
Beets Bay leaf, caraway, cloves, ginger
Berries Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla
Broccoli Mustard, nutmeg, oregano, tarragon
Cabbage Caraway, celery seed, cumin, curry, fennel
Carrots Cinnamon, cloves, dill, ginger, marjoram
Cauliflower Cayenne, celery seed, chili powder, nutmeg
Corn Celery seed, cumin, curry powder, onion, parsley
Cucumbers Chives, dill, garlic, mint, parsley, vinegar
Green Beans Dill, curry powder, oregano, tarragon, thyme
Greens Onion, pepper
Melons Cardamom, ginger, mint, pepper
Peaches Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg
Pears Anise, cinnamon, mint, nutmeg
Peas Dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage
Rhubarb Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla
Spinach Cinnamon, mint, nutmeg, oregano, sage, thyme
Summer Squash Cloves, curry powder, nutmeg, rosemary, sage
Tomatoes Basil, bay leaf, dill, onion, oregano, parsley

How long should I keep spices and herbs?

As a general rule, keep herbs or ground spices for 1 year; keep whole spices 2 years.

  • Buy a smaller container until you know how fast you’ll use a spice or herb. If it smells strong and flavorful, it’s probably still potent.
  • Rub a small amount of an herb or ground spice in your hand. If the aroma is fresh, rich, and immediate, it can still flavor foods.
  • Check a whole spice—such as a clove or cinnamon stick—by breaking, crushing, or scraping it before smelling it. Avoid smelling pepper or chili powder as they can irritate your nose.
  • Label date of purchase on container with a permanent marking pen and store away from any sources of heat (e.g., oven, stove top) to maintain their quality.

Source: University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Iowa Launches Healthy and Happy Outdoors

July 23rd, 2013

Healthy and Happy OutdoorsHealthy and Happy Outdoors (H2O) is a new initiative designed to connect Iowans with the outdoors as a means to reduce stress and improve health.

The H2O website provides information on more than 30 types of outdoor activities at over 1,600 state and county parks and recreation areas. Each time you complete an outdoor activity, you can have your name entered into a drawing for recreational prizes, including bikes, binoculars, and vacation getaways.

This is a great way for families to enjoy Iowa outdoors while being physically active.

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USDA Standards that Define Food Terms on Packaging

July 5th, 2013

Packaging for foods, like meat, poultry,and eggs may contain terms such as “free range,” “natural,” and “cage free,” but these USDA terms do not imply a level of nutrition or health. They simply describe how the animal or plant is raised and/or grown prior to market, and in the case of “natural,” how it is processed for sale.  Each of the terms explained …

Term Definition
Grass Fed Grass fed animals have constant access to pasture during the growing seasons and are not given grain or grain byproducts. Grass fed animals also can eat hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources.
Free Range This USDA designation means the poultry (raised for meat) has been allowed some access to the outdoors.
Cage Free These laying hens live uncaged, typically within a barn, warehouse building, or other enclosed area. These hens are given continuous access to food and water and the freedom to roam within the enclosed area during their egg-production cycle.
Natural Food with this definition does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative, or other artificial or synthetic ingredient, and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed.
Organic Foods that are classified as “organic” are produced by farmers using renewable resources and conservation efforts for soil and water, as a means to maintain the environment. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that were not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without the use of synthetic insecticides, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. In order for a food product to be classified as “organic,” the farm must be inspected to ensure it is meeting the government regulations. Companies that handle the foods also must be certified that they meet the USDA’s organic standards.

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Brown Bagging It! Lunches to Go

April 11th, 2013

When you’re packing a lunch bag, creativity and smart planning are keys to eating food that fits a healthy lifestyle. lunchSack lunches don’t need to be boring. Create a more flexible, nutritious pattern by basing your food choices on MyPlate.

Use whole grains and lean proteins

To break away from the traditional peanut butter/jelly or luncheon meat sandwich on white bread, look at other possibilities. Perhaps make your bread whole grain or opt for a whole wheat tortilla, flat bread, pita, Kaiser roll, or English muffin. Use cuts from lean meats left over from dinner the night before or pack other prepared, left over food.

Add color and crunch with fruits and vegetables

Vary your fruit and vegetables, selecting what’s in season that can be packed whole or sliced and packed in plastic bags or cups. Add a healthy dip like hummus to enjoy with vegetables. Also consider low fat or skim milk, or 100% fruits juices if you pack a drink.

Follow food safety measures

Be sure to wash whole, fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before packing. Make meat sandwiches the night before and refrigerate or freeze overnight. Put prepared, left over food in a well-sealed container and refrigerate. Pack food in an insulated bag with two ice packs lining the container. Use gel packs, frozen juice boxes, or frozen fruit items in the insulated bag.

For more information, download “What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag!”.

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Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

March 28th, 2013

Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Food prices likely will increase two to four percent in 2013, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is in addition to the two to three percent increase in prices you already saw in 2012. Since 2002, the world food commodity price index has increased approximately 60 percent. According to the University of New Hampshire, using four strategies can save you 15 percent at the grocery store.

They are:

  1. Use grocery store ads when planning to shop,
  2. Complete a menu plan,
  3. Write a grocery list, and
  4. Use unit pricing to select the best buys.

If a family spends $500 a month on groceries, these strategies would result in a $75 monthly savings!

To help you put these four strategies into practice, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach created Spend Smart. Eat Smart. This site provides resources for families to:

You also can connect with Spend Smart. Eat Smart. through social media sites like:

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Storing Whole Grains Safely

February 19th, 2013

Because whole grains retain their healthful oils, they are more susceptible to oxidation and need to be stored to prevent deterioration. Heat, light, and air can trigger storing grainsoxidation of the oil in the germ of whole grains.

If you’re shopping in the bulk section, don’t be afraid to sniff the grains, which should have a light sweet scent or no scent at all. If the bin smells oily or moldy, the grains may be rancid.

Once you bring your whole grain home, store it directly in the refrigerator or freezer. You can either keep it in its unopened package or transfer it into an airtight container or plastic zip-top bag.

Since different grains vary in fat content (from about 1.7% for wheat to about 6.9% for oats), the shelf life of the flours made from them varies. In general, most whole grain flours keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 months, and in the freezer for 6-8 months. It is recommended to keep flour in a sealed container to prevent picking up stray odors and tastes from the refrigerator or freezer.

Grains, because their oil is sealed in the original grain kernel and cannot easily oxidize, can keep much longer than flour. Most will keep for several months in a room- temperature cupboard, and for a year in the freezer. Commercially processed whole grain products such as breads, crackers, and pasta are commercially processed to be shelf stable and can be stored in the same manner as those that are not whole grain. General advice on grains and flour: try to buy what you’ll use in 2-3 months.

Safe Storage, Grain by Grain

Whole Wheat Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 6 months
Oats – airtight seal, freezer, 3 months
Oat Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 2 months Cornmeal – airtight seal, freezer 4-6 months Kernels or Popcorn – airtight seal, freezer, 1 year Rye Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 6 months
Spelt Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 6 months Buckwheat Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 2 months Barley Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 4 months
Brown Rice – airtight seal, cupboard, 5-6 months; freezer, up to a year
Brown Rice Flour – airtight seal, refrigerator, 4-5 months; freezer, up to a year

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Whole Grains: Give Them the 3-step Test

February 11th, 2013

Less than 5 percent of Americans consume the minimum recommended amount of whole grains. Although Americans generally eat enough total grains, most of the grains consumed are refined grains rather than whole grains. Unfortunately, many refined grain foods also are high in solid fats and added sugars. There is evidence that suggests whole grain intake may reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer (e.g., colon) as well as help control body weight. Whole grains are a source of nutrients such as iron, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, and dietary fiber. At least half of recommended total grain intake should be whole grains, which for many is about 3 ounce equivalents per day.

Not sure if a food is actually a whole grain? Use these three steps to help you decide:

  1. Front of package—Check the front of the package for key terms such as “100% whole grain,” “whole oats,” “made with whole wheat.”
  2. Ingredients—Read the list of ingredients; one of the first three should contain key terms such as “100% whole wheat,” “whole wheat flour,” “whole oats,” or “brown rice.”
  3. Extra claims and logos—Examine the other panels for extra whole grain health claims or whole grain stamps/symbols that will support your decision.

A new publication Whole Grains is now available. Whole Grains includes a wide variety of information about whole grains including how to use some of the newer whole grains such as quinoa, teef, and steel cut oats. An extensive whole grain chart includes nutritional and cooking information on many whole grains.

healthy living, nutrition

Tips for Healthier Holiday Meals

December 12th, 2012
Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Select a variety of vegetables for a great way to add color to the meal. Dish up smaller portions of meat on your plate.
Cut back on sugar. Use non-nutritive sweeteners in place of sugar for pie fillings, puddings, and cranberry sauces. You can usually reduce the amount of sugar by 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in recipes that are high in sugar.
Lower the fat.
  • Use egg whites or a nonfat egg substitute instead of whole eggs.
  • Substitute a nutty cereal for half the amount of pecans in pecan pie.
  • Substitute chopped vegetables for some of the bread in stuffing.
  • Omit butter and margarine from stuffing recipes.

Be dessert smart. Cut pies in smaller pieces. Serve a large platter of fresh fruit along with traditional desserts. Try the Hurry-up Baked Apples for dessert. Bake fewer varieties of
cookies and bars and make them smaller. Use fat free whipped topping.

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