Strength in Stress

The past seven months have been stressful, so over the next few weeks we are going to have a series of blogs on stress. Contributors to the blogs who have expertise in the area of stress will teach us more about what it is, how to manage it, and how to use stress for good! The blogs will include how stress affects the body, eating habits, physical activity, sleep patterns, and family relationships. Today’s blog was written by Share Kelley, an Iowa Concern Hotline staff member, and will cover how stress affects the body.

Think of your body like a computer. It takes in information, and puts out responses. Pressure can be useful or harmful, which can result in brief responses like ‘Fight or Flight’. If our body had to respond all day, every day, it would drain our system. Like any computer, the body needs breaks.

Here are six ways you can recognize when your body needs a break:

  1. Headaches: Stress can trigger and intensify tension headaches. Drink a lot of water, avoid caffeine, take brain breaks, and limit screen time.
    1. Pro Tip: Schedule water breaks throughout the day.
  2. Stomachaches:  Stress can make tummy aches, nausea, and GI upset worse. Make healthy food choices for meals and snacks. Choose vitamin rich fruits and vegetables.
    1. Pro Tip:  Plan regular meals and snacks to refresh yourself.
  3. High Blood Pressure:  Stress tightens blood vessels causing high blood pressure. Schedule time during the day to do some deep breathing.
    1. Pro Tip:  Try 4-7-8 deep breathing. Inhale on a count of 4, hold for 7, exhale on a count of 8.
  4. Tense Muscles:  Stress tightens muscles causing stress aches in the head, neck, and back. Take time throughout the day to loosen tight muscles.
    1. Pro Tip:  Use muscle relaxation. Tighten then fully release one muscle group at a time from your toes all the way up to your forehead. Then sit with all muscles fully relaxed.
  5. Insomnia:  Stress can make it hard to fall asleep. Try reading, listening to relaxing music or guided meditation. Avoid screens before bed.
    1. Pro Tip:  Schedule sleep and block interruptions during that time. No calls, texts, or screens.
  6. Frequent Illness:  The immune system cannot function as well when the body is already stressed.
    1. Pro Tip: Use the tips above to create a routine so your body is ready to fight infections.

If you are struggling with stress or if you would like more information, check out the Iowa Concern website.

In addition, the State of Iowa has received federal funding to offer free virtual counseling and assistance to those affected, in any way, by COVID-19. COVID Recovery Iowa provides counseling, virtual activities, referrals and help finding resources to any Iowan seeking assistance or a listening ear. For more information, visit https://covidrecoveryiowa.org.

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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Ways to Enjoy Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are a nutritious legume grown all over the world and popular in many cuisines. Garbanzos are a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. They are very inexpensive and can be found canned or dry. They can be used in many dishes and can be swapped for other beans or lentils in your favorite recipes.

Try them:

Here are some ways to cook dried chickpeas:

  • In a large pot, using 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of chickpeas, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until desired tenderness (usually anywhere between 1 hour to 2 hours)
  • In a slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours
  • In a pressure cooker with a sealed lid (12 minutes if pre-soaked or 50 minutes without pre-soaking), and naturally releasing the pressure for 10 minutes

My favorite way to prepare garbanzos is to cook them until soft and mix them with a stew made of pureed carrots, onions, peppers, and garlic. The veggies can be cooked (without chopping them) with the garbanzos and then pureed separately to make the stew. You can add whatever spices on hand to the stew such as salt, pepper, cumin, and turmeric to taste. I then add the garbanzos to the stew and serve over rice.

I encourage you to give garbanzo beans a try!

Written by: Paula Gutierrez, ISU Dietetic Intern

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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Vegetable Quesadillas

Would you like to know what my family’s favorite recipe is to make when we are short on time? It is our September recipe of the month, Vegetable Quesadillas. I can get this recipe on the table in 15 minutes or less, and I think you can too.

I keep this recipe in my back pocket for times when I feel rushed to get a meal on the table or when my children need to eat – NOW! I do not usually put this recipe on my meal plan for the week, but I do try to keep the first three ingredients (tortillas, cheese, and beans) on hand. For the vegetables, I use whatever I have in the refrigerator or freezer like chopped onion, chopped pepper, or frozen corn. You can cook the vegetables first or put them in raw.

If you have never made quesadillas before, this is the perfect recipe to learn how. You heat your skillet over medium heat and place the tortilla in the skillet. Put the cheese, beans, and vegetables on half of the tortilla. Then fold the empty half of the tortilla over, like closing a book. Cook the quesadilla for a couple of minutes, flip it, then cook a couple minutes more. You want the tortilla lightly browned and the cheese melty.

My children eat these plain, my husband and I top them with salsa. You can get creative and top these with avocado, tomato, sour cream, a squeeze of lime juice, or whatever sounds good to you.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Super Snacks for Super Kids

The return to school can be hectic for both children and parents. This year, school may look different for your family, but no doubt, your children will still be hungry come snack time! The good news is that snacks are a good way to make sure your child is meeting their nutritional needs. Sometimes it can be difficult to meet these needs simply through food at mealtimes.

While it is easy for kids to grab a bag of chips to snack on, there are some ways you can make snacking both hassle-free and nutritious!

  • Choose snacks that your kids enjoy: Make a list of snack options and ask your kids which ones they like the most.
  • Plan ahead: Choose and prepare nutritious snacks ahead of time so that they are ready to go. Your kids may be able to help in preparation as well!
  • Keeping them accessible: Keep nutritious snacks where kids can easily see or grab them.
  • Make snack time fun: Having snacks with bright colors and different textures is visually appealing to kids.

Luckily, there are many different ways you can incorporate nutritious food into your child’s diet through snack time. You can find them in every food group, so you can always switch it up to fit your child’s needs. Here are some quick and easy snack ideas you can try at home:

For additional snack and recipe ideas, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Written by Jonnee Sulzberger, ISU Dietetic Intern

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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Versatile Veggie

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables because of how versatile it is. You can use this inexpensive summer squash in several ways when cooking and baking. I didn’t appreciate zucchini as much as a child, but now that I do most of the cooking at my house, I love how easy it is to transform this veggie to meet everyone’s needs! Below are a few of my favorite ways to use this tasty green veggie. 

  • Sauté– I love to sauté diced or chopped zucchini in a little bit of olive oil with spices and other summer squash or tomatoes. It is a quick, tasty side dish that everyone enjoys! I also like using sautéed zucchini in recipes like Zucchini Hummus Wraps and Vegetable Quesadillas.
  • Bake– I like to add shredded zucchini to meatloaf, muffins and cakes. One of my favorite muffin recipes is the Chocolate Chip and Zucchini Muffins from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. My family also likes to have sliced zucchini baked in the oven with parmesan cheese for a crunchy snack.
  • Grill– As mentioned in a previous blog, we LOVE to grill at our house. We like to cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and cook it on the grill with a drizzle of olive oil and a blend of spices. I use leftover grilled zucchini in pasta and on grilled cheese sandwiches. 
  • Steam– If I want to have a lighter pasta, I make zucchini noodles with a cheap spiralizer I purchased several years ago at a home goods store. The noodles can be steamed and used as an alternative to heavy pasta dishes. When our daughter was a baby, I would steam zucchini to make baby food since it was inexpensive.

One of my favorite things about using zucchini in a recipe or as a side dish is that zucchini does not take long to prepare or cook. I love how zucchini takes on the flavor of what you cook it with, making it easy to prepare in a variety of ways. Watch the video for some additional tips on how to prepare this versatile summer veggie. Grab a zucchini next time you pick out produce- you won’t be disappointed!

Cheers to trying a new zucchini recipe this week!

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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Green Beans Three Ways

This week our blog is in video form. We have amazing produce right now in Iowa and I am making the most of it at my house. Green beans are one of my favorite summer vegetables. My dad grows them in his garden and I love to pick them up at the farmers market and grocery store. You do not need a recipe to prepare green beans. If you get familiar with a few different methods for cooking them, then you can get creative with the seasonings you like best. Check out the video below to see three different methods for preparing fresh green beans by steaming in the microwave, roasting in the oven and boiling on the stove.

All of the methods start with green beans that have been rinsed and trimmed.

Microwave on high power for 4 minutes in a microwave safe dish with a lid and some water (2 tablespoons of water per cup of beans). Check for doneness. Stir and cook for 1-2 more minutes if needed.

Roast beans with some olive oil and seasoning in a 400 degree preheated oven for 15-20 minutes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Beans will be crisp tender at 15 minutes. For darker more blistered beans, leave them in the oven for 5 more minutes.

Boil on the stove top for 4-6 minutes. Simply bring a pot of water to a rapid boil, add beans and stir occasionally until they reach the doneness that you prefer. Season with your favorite spices.

Enjoy!
Christine

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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More Onions?

Do you ever wonder why so many of our recipes here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. have onions in them? Just last week I shared our August recipe of the month, Cool Cucumber Salad, which is another recipe with onions in it. Below I share my top three reasons for including onions in recipes and my top three onion-containing recipes.

I include onions in recipes because:

  1. Onions add flavor. Cooked or raw, onions add flavor to recipes without adding salt or special ingredients.
  2. Onions are inexpensive and available year-round. Since they are easy to store, onions can be found at a reasonable price any time of year.
  3. Onions freeze well. I do not enjoy the tears that come with chopping onions, but I do like that I can chop a large amount of onions at one time and store them in the freezer. Then, when I need onions for a recipe, I just reach into my freezer and dump in some onions.

My favorite onion recipes are:

  1. Chicken Fajitas – I love onions and peppers cooked together in a skillet.
  2. Chicken and Rice Soup – This is a recipe where I rely on my frozen, chopped onions.
  3. Cowboy Caviar – The flavor and crunch of a fresh onion is a perfect complement to the milder beans and corn in this recipe.

Here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we think onions are a pretty great vegetable and we encourage you to try using one in your cooking this week. If you would like to know more about how to chop an onion, check out the short video above.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Cool Cucumber Salad

When the weather gets hot, I rarely feel like cooking a meal. I want to be able to reach into my refrigerator for something that will cool me off and fill me up. Our August recipe of the month is Cool Cucumber Salad and it is a cool recipe for a hot summer day.

The base for this recipe is chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. Stir in some feta cheese, oil, lemon juice, and ground black pepper and you have a side dish or a whole meal. I like to let this salad cool in the refrigerator for a few hours before eating it to let the flavors come together. I also tend to have more cucumbers than the recipe calls for, so I double or triple this recipe depending on how many cucumbers I have. This recipe can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.

The three vegetables in this recipe are currently in season so they are plentiful in gardens, farmers markets, and stores. If you have a lot of any of these vegetables, check out our produce basics below for information on how to store, clean, and use them.

Try a bowl of this salad for lunch or dinner on a hot summer day, I think it will be just what you need to cool off and fill up.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Tasty Summer Treat

With temperatures outside steadily rising, my family and I love to finish the day with a cold summer treat. As a parent, any dessert that I can make that incorporates fruit and doesn’t contain a lot of extra sugar is a win!

A favorite treat at our house is Magical Fruit Salad. I love how versatile this recipe is- you can use whatever fruit and pudding mix you have on hand to make some yummy combinations! I have made this recipe with a mix of berries, diced oranges, and peaches. If you don’t have any fresh fruit on hand you can also use canned or frozen. A personal favorite at our house is a spinoff of a banana split. I use banana or chocolate pudding mix with diced strawberries, banana chunks, and pitted cherries. Experimenting with different combinations of pudding and fruit has been a great way for our 21-month old to try new fruit.

Magical Fruit Salad is a fun alternative to ice cream and popsicles, especially when you are looking for a cold treat to beat the summer heat. This recipe is quick and can be ready to eat within minutes of mixing your ingredients. I like to divide the recipe batch into mini mason jars and place in the fridge for a few hours before serving. This is by far my family’s perfect summer treat!

Cheers to trying Magical Fruit Salad this week!

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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