Now is the Time

Today I would like to share about mindful eating and keeping families healthy. This is especially relevant for these interesting times while we stay close to home because of COVID-19. Many of us are well aware of money-saving strategies and have ideas of how we’d eat better or cook more if we just had time.  We’ve put those ideas in our “back pockets” for the time when we REALLY need them. With the uncertainty of how long the social distancing and disrupted lifestyle may go on, I think it’s a great opportunity to employ some of these great ideas. The gift of time makes it possible to try things that just didn’t seem possible before due to hectic schedules. See if any of these ideas would work for your family!

  1. Include structure in your day with planning set meal times.  Along with that, limit between meal snacking to set times with limited portions to ensure a good appetite at when meal-time rolls around. 
  2. Plan your menus for an entire week, along with a grocery list. Let everyone be part of the process! Set some ground rules for planning, like including items from at least 4 food groups at each meal.  What a great opportunity for nutrition education in the kitchen! Find out more about the food groups at ChooseMyPlate.gov
  3. Trying a new recipe for something that you would usually purchase as a processed food, like chicken strips, refried beans, or maybe using up that leftover can of pumpkin in your cupboard and trying Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes
  4. Cook together and learn some new skills. Check out our variety of videos to get started. 
  5. Get inspired by watching a cooking show as a family and plan a dish from it into your weekly menu.
  6. Eat together as a family at the table, and make plans for sharing responsibilities of setting the table, serving, cleaning up and cooking.
  7. Explore the different recipe categories on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe page together.
  8. Inventory your cupboards, freezer, and refrigerator and brainstorm together about what you could use to create a meal.
  9. Have fun together! 

What better time could there be than now to change up old habits and push re-set on healthy eating at home? If you start now, you just might have time to adopt some new, lifechanging behaviors before it’s back to “business as usual” and the hustle and bustle. Practicing new behaviors when we can be mindful and supportive of each other can be a great positive move toward the habits that you’ve only dreamt of in the past.  

Judy Dittmar is a Registered Dietitian and mom with a wealth of experience in the classroom, kitchen, and garden. She enjoys hiking and running state park trails, and generally being outdoors.

Chocolate cupcakes
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Spicy Tuna Salad

I did not know when I was working on this recipe two years ago how timely it would be today. Our April recipe of the month is Spicy Tuna Salad. This recipe is particularly useful as we social distance and our trips to the grocery store are fewer and farther between. This recipe uses two sources of shelf stable protein – tuna and beans.

When I know I cannot get to the grocery store often, I rely on shelf stable sources of protein. These include tuna and salmon in cans or pouches, canned beans, dried beans and lentils, and canned chicken. If you find yourself reaching for one of these sources of protein to round out a meal this week, here are some ideas for how to use them:

We have many other recipes that can be adapted to using shelf stable sources of protein, if you need help modifying a recipe, please let us know.

Enjoy!

Spicy Tuna Salad - Spend Smart Eat Smart

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Making Homemade Bread

No Knead Whole Wheat Bread is a favorite in my home. My family has been making fewer trips to the grocery store as we continue to social distance. I have not been to the store in 12 days, so that means our supply of fresh foods is running low. But we still really like to have bread with our meals, so I have been making homemade bread more often. For the past two Sundays, we have worked to make a loaf of this bread together.  To make it, you pour all of the ingredients into a large bowl, beat them together, spread the dough in a pan, let the dough rise, bake the bread, and serve. 

Here are some ways we enjoy this bread in my home:

  • As a side dish to soups, salads, and casseroles.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • Toast with butter or peanut butter.
  • Bread and butter as a morning snack.

I hope you like this recipe as much as my family does and find it useful during this time.  To turn bread making into a family activity, have children of all ages help with measuring and taking turns beating the dough.

Enjoy!

No Knead Whole Wheat Bread

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Meals and Snacks from the Pantry

In the coming weeks many of us will be spending most of our time at home and doing lots of food preparation for ourselves and our families. As you prepare your grocery list and plan your meals for the weeks ahead, below are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that can be made from pantry staples or made ahead and frozen.

These recipes use items I keep on hand to help with quick, nutritious meals for my family.  Some of my go-to staple ingredients are canned beans, canned tomatoes, canned fruit, chicken broth, peanut butter, quick oats, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, whole wheat tortillas, brown rice, whole grain cereals, whole wheat bread, frozen chicken breast, and onions. Since most of us are still able to get to the grocery store, there is no need to buy excessive amounts of food, but buy some extra items each time you go so you have a good supply on hand and do not need to go as often.

Winter Black Bean Soup

Oatmeal Pancakes

Peanut Butter Balls

Crispy Granola

Make Ahead Burritos

Berry and Greens Smoothies

Mexican Chicken Soup

Vegetable Quesadillas

Lentil Tacos

And to help you with your meal planning, check out our 5 Day Meal Planner.

Stay healthy!

Make Ahead Burritos
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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Eat Your Beans at (Almost) Every Meal

This month is all about incorporating more plants into meals. To switch it up at my house, I try to make vegetarian meals at least twice a week. Not only does it help my family save money, but it helps add variety to our meals. 

Beans are a great source of protein and they are easy to add to our meals. I love cooking with beans; they taste great and tend to be less expensive than meat. Brynn, our 17-month-old, loves beans and will eat them straight out of the can! My husband on the other hand would prefer beans added to a meal, not eaten as a snack, so I am always on the search for quick, easy bean dishes to try at home. Several Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that highlight beans have become family favorites at our house.  

One of our favorite dishes is Lentil Tacos where the filling is smashed lentils cooked in taco seasoning. We add our favorite taco toppings and make Black Bean Salsa on the side to get an even greater variety of beans. Another fan favorite at my house is hummus. For easy meals, we will make the Zucchini Hummus Wraps and add black beans. These wraps are a great way to use up vegetables in your kitchen before they go to waste. With Brynn being a fan of black beans, the Black Bean Burgers are a quick meal that I make when I am running low on groceries and time. I will make several batches and stick them in the freezer to use for lunches or a snack- this girl really loves her beans!

Cooking dry beans saves money and allows you to add flavor while the beans cook. Spend Smart. Eat Smart. has a great resource for how to cook dry beans at home. In my house, we generally use canned for convenience. When cooking with canned beans, look for cans with labels that say, ‘less sodium’ or ‘no salt added’. If I am unable to find those options at the store, I will simply place the beans in a colander and run them under cool water to rinse off extra salt. If you are a fan of hummus but don’t always like the price at the store, you can make your own hummus at home for a fraction of the cost. Add your favorite seasonings and you have the perfect snack or addition to your meal. I hope this blog gives you a few ideas on how to add beans into your weekly meals while saving you a little bit of money on your next grocery bill. 

Cheers to swapping out your protein this week!

Zucchinni humus wrap meal
Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a new mom she is always on the lookout for easy, healthy recipes to prepare for her family.

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Make Veggies the Star

Adults should eat an average of two to three cups of vegetables per day depending on age and sex. Does this sound like a lot to you? If you are balancing a busy schedule, a tight grocery budget and often eating meals on the go, this may seem like a high bar to reach. I have found that making vegetables my main dish once per day helps me reach 2 ½ cups per day, which is the recommendation for me. 

At lunch, I do this by packing salads to take to work. Some of my favorites from our recipe collection are Zesty Whole Grain Salad, Summer Bounty Salad and Chicken Club Salad. Each of these packs up well and gets me at least half-way to my 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. Generally, I eat the rest of my veggies as snacks and as a side dish at dinner. 

Soup can also be a very vegetable-rich main dish. I make soup nearly every week and keep a variety of soups in single-serve containers in my freezer. I will admit that I improvise soup a lot. I make soup out of the veggies that I have left in my fridge at the end of the week. Sometimes I use other leftovers such as herbs, potatoes, meat, beans and grains as well. This not only leads to a tasty meal, but also helps me prevent food waste and make good use of the food I have before I buy more. When I feel like using a recipe, one of my favorites is Vegetable Soup with Kale and Lentils

How do you make veggies the star of your meals? Please share your ideas in the comments or on our social media.

Take care!

Chicken Club Salad
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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Vegetable Frittata

Our March recipe of the month is Vegetable Frittata. We have breakfast for supper once each week at my home, so I use this recipe often. When my children see this recipe on the table, they call it egg pizza because we cut it into triangles when we serve it.

Here are some of the reasons why Vegetable Frittata is on my favorites list:

  • Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein. Plus, my family really likes eggs.
  • I can chop up vegetables that are leftover from other meals for this recipe. Almost any vegetable will work.
  • It comes together quickly. This is a good recipe for a night when I do not have much time to cook.
  • The leftovers make a tasty breakfast. We do not have leftovers of this recipe very often, but when we do, they taste great when reheated in the microwave for breakfast the next morning.

One important thing to remember about this recipe is to use an ovenproof skillet. The last step is to broil the eggs in the oven for a few minutes, so you want to be sure it is safe to put your skillet in the oven.

Enjoy!

Vegetable Frittata Meal
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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A Walk a Day Could Keep the Doctor Away

As Jody mentioned in her earlier blogs this month, February is focused around heart health. I like to focus on the habits I can do every day that help keep my heart healthy. Eating well and staying active are at the top of the list for me. 

Last week Jody touched on strength training and the importance of weight bearing activity to help strengthen muscles. Another easy way to exercise your heart and body is to go for a walk. Did you know that walking is the single most popular adult exercise in the country? Walking can be a great way to increase your heart rate while exercising your heart and lungs. 

The goal is to aim for 30-minutes of exercise 5 days a week. When I am running short on time, I will break my walk into short, brisk segments to get to that 30-minute goal. A few ways that I tend to break up my daily walk are to park further away from my destination when I am out running errands and to take short walks during my breaks. 

When I was pregnant, I gave myself a goal to walk for 30 minutes every day. I not only wanted to have a healthy pregnancy, but walking helped alleviate stress and gave me an energy boost- this was crucial in those last few months! Once my daughter was born, walking was the only tried and true way that I could soothe her. Having an October baby in Iowa took some flexibility on my part because it got cold outside fast. If the weather was too cold to take her outside, I would head to our local mall to get in my daily walk. Some of my fondest memories from childhood were going on walks with my mom. I hope that my daughter will cherish these daily walks as she gets older and begins to establish her own healthy habits.  

Check out the handout, walk your way to fitness, under the ‘move’ tab on our website that highlights helpful tips on what to wear for your walk and how to turn your basic daily stroll into a heart healthy workout.

Cheers to getting outside and strengthening your heart!

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a new mom she is always on the lookout for easy, healthy recipes to prepare for her family.

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Strength Training: It does a body good

Last week I shared a sample plan on how to include our at-home workouts into your weekly exercise plan. This week I want to share some more information and tips on strength training. It is recommended to do muscle strengthening activity at least 2 days per week. Strength training is important for everyone. As we age, if we don’t use our muscles, they get weaker and we are less able to do normal daily activities.

I find that most often, people are comfortable doing physical activities that strengthen their heart and lungs such as walking, running, biking, or swimming. And they are less comfortable doing activities that strengthen their muscles such as push-ups, squats, lunges, and core exercises. Often this is because they aren’t sure how to properly perform these exercises. That is where following our Beginner Strength Training video is helpful. 

Good form is very important when strength training to prevent injury. Here are some tips to keep in mind when strength training.

  • Keep your core tight by pulling your belly button in toward your back. This helps to support your low back while being active.
  • Exhale during the difficult part of the exercise. For example, when doing an overhead press, exhale when you push the weight over your head. Inhale as you lower the weights back down. 
  • Choose a weight that allows you to complete the full range of motion for each exercise. For example, if you cannot raise your arms up to shoulder height for front shoulder raises, choose a lighter weight. 

As your fitness level improves, increase the difficulty of the At-home Beginner Strength Training workout by increasing the amount of weight you use or repeat the set of exercises 2-3 times.
For additional strength training exercises, check out the American Council on Exercise website.

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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A Happy, Healthy Heart

February is American Heart month. It’s a time to focus on habits that can help us live heart healthy lives. This is important because heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the US. 

One habit that makes your heart happy is being active. Any opportunity to move is good for your heart, such as taking the stairs or playing with your kids. It’s also important to include some planned physical activity in to your week to increase your heart rate and strengthen your muscles. 

Last year we added some at-home workout videos to the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website that can help you increase your activity. Below is a sample calendar for how to incorporate them into your weekly workout plan

Sample week

Day 1 Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7
At-home workoutBeginner Strength Training30 minute walkRest or stretchingAt-home workoutCardio IntervalAt-home workout Beginner Strength TrainingRest or stretching30 minutewalk

Here are some key points to keep in mind.

  • Exercise Safely – Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise plan.
  • Consistency-The most important key to success is consistency. The recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week is a goal. However, it is better to be active for a short amount of time on a regular basis than not do anything because of limited time or energy. 
  • Variety-Variety in your workouts and in the intensity of the workouts throughout the week helps prevent boredom. It also allows you to move your body in different ways to strengthen different muscle groups. 
  • Rest days-It is important to include rest days throughout the week. This allows your body time to recover and get stronger. Rest days may also include some gentle stretching. Listen to your body and, if needed, add an extra rest day.
  • Fuel your activity-In order to have the energy and strength to be active, it is important to fuel your body. Use the MyPlate Plan to determine how much you need to eat from each food group. 

Use the Move Your Way Activity Planner to start planning your weekly routine to build a healthy and happy heart!

woman stretching
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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