Staying Active when the Temperatures Drop

Taking a long walk and playing in the park on a beautiful day are pretty enjoyable ways to be active. The sad truth is that here in Iowa, we have several months out of each year when the weather outside is less than ideal. Lately, we have had days when the temperature doesn’t even reach zero degrees, brrrr! The frigid weather combined with fewer hours of sunlight can lead to all of us feeling an energy slump.

Despite this, adults need 150 minutes of physical activity per week for good health. So how do you make it work if you do not want to invest in a gym membership and it is so unpleasant outside? You can get moving indoors with very little equipment and still raise your heart rate and work your muscles. Here are some ideas for indoor workouts.

  • Schedule walking dates with friends. Walking is great exercise and doing it with a friend helps with accountability. You can walk at the mall or use an indoor walking workout video. There are many free walking videos available to stream online.
  • The CDC has created a series of videos featuring muscle-strengthening exercises that you can do at home.
  • Make the chores you have to do part of your fitness routine. Why not put on some music while you clean the house to speed up your pace and raise your heart rate?
  • If you have little ones at your house, include them in the fun with these ideas for indoor active games to play with children.

If you choose to exercise outdoors during the winter months, make sure you do so safely. The American Heart Association has some helpful recommendations for being active in cold weather.

Share how you stay active during the winter on Twitter (@SpendEatSmart) or Facebook (Spend Smart. Eat Smart.)

Enjoy these activities while we count down the days until Spring!

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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Let’s Party!

‘Tis the season for festive fun! This is my favorite time of year to pull friends together for a party. Formal dinner parties are not really for me. I prefer to invite friends over for a casual get together with some tasty food that is not too difficult or expensive for me to prepare.

For this week’s blog, I have done a recipe round-up of party friendly recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. I hope they make it onto your party spread!

  • Mango Salsa: This is a delicious option alongside traditional salsa. It is tasty with homemade Baked Tortilla Chips or store bought ones. This recipe works well with jarred or canned mangoes if you do not want to work with fresh ones. It will be the talk of your party!
  • Peanut Butter Balls: Holiday parties are usually overwhelmed with cookies and sweets. These little nibbles are a nice change of pace and look great alongside Fruit Kabobs.
  • If your party is around a mealtime and you do not want to have a sit down dinner, consider putting out the components of a Tostada Bar. It is less work for you and fun for your guests to do themselves.
  • Sometimes it is nice to bring everyone together around a hot pot of soup. Our Slow Cooker Pork Chili is perfect for this. You can keep it hot in the slow cooker for everyone to enjoy as they come and go.
  • For a sweet ending to your party, try Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes. They start with a cake mix to keep your baking simple.

         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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Save Money on Holiday Groceries

The holidays bring lots of festive fun and time with family and friends, but they can also mean extra expenses. I love it when I get the chance to prepare special meals and plan parties, but it can get very expensive. Grocery stores often offer sales and specials around the holidays that can help if you know how to use them.

Here are some tips to help you spend smart while you shop for holiday cooking.

  1. Check your cupboards and refrigerator before you shop. Holiday cooking sometimes involves ingredients we do not use very often. Knowing what you have will help you avoid buying a duplicate while you shop.
  2. A sale price only saves you money if you know you will use the item you purchase. Avoid buying food products just because they are on sale if they are not part of your meal plan. That could lead to wasted food and money.
  3. Remember that sales are used as advertising for a product. The sign may be large and inviting, but the price may not be as good as it seems. Check the unit price to make sure it is really saving you money. You can learn more about unit pricing on our website and our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app has a unit price calculator built into it. You can download the app free from your app store.
  4. Occasionally stores will have deep discounts on holiday items like turkeys or hams immediately before and after a holiday. I review the grocery store ads to make my meal plan for a couple of weeks after the holiday. This allows me to work these discounted items into my plan and know they will not go to waste.

I hope these tips help you save a bit of money and stress this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team!

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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Sweet Potatoes vs. White Potatoes

Which is better, sweet potatoes or white potatoes?potatoes

The honest answer is they are both delicious and nutritious. There is certainly room for all types of potatoes in a healthy diet. Potatoes of all kinds can be prepared simply and in a wide variety of ways. They both provide nutrients that are important for good health and they taste great when mixed together in recipes. Here is a snapshot of what white and sweet potatoes have to offer.

White Potatoes* Sweet Potatoes*
Calories 130 180
Fiber (if skin is eaten) 3 grams 7 grams
Protein 3 grams 4 grams
Carbohydrate 30 grams 41.4 grams
Fat Less than 1 gram Less than 1 gram
Sugar 2 grams 12 grams
Vitamins 29% of your daily vitamin C needs 65% of your daily vitamin C needs
More than 100% of your daily vitamin A needs
Minerals 21% of your daily Potassium needs
13% of your daily Manganese needs
27% of your daily Potassium needs
50% of your daily Manganese needs

*Information based on a one-cup serving including potato skin

Potatoes are delicious, nutritious and low cost. The healthiest potato recipes don’t add a lot of fat and calories. Here are a few from our website that I particularly enjoy.

Add some potatoes to your grocery list today!

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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Sweet Talk

Produce Basics - Sweet PotatoPardon the goofy title, but this week we’re talking sweet…potatoes that is! Have you given sweet potatoes a try? If you are unsure about them,it might help to think beyond the casserole with marshmallows on the top. They can be used in many of the same ways as white potatoes. They are delicious roasted, mashed, baked or even as French fries.

Choosing sweet potatoes is simple. Their skins should be relatively smooth with few dents and the flesh of the potato should be firm. Avoid potatoes with cracks, soft spots or sprouts. Sweet potatoes usually last for a month or so when stored in a cool dark area.

It is perfectly safe to eat sweet potatoes skin. Just give them a good scrub and enjoy. Our Sweet Potato Produce Basics publication has all of the info you need to choose, clean and prepare sweet potatoes.

Stay tuned throughout this month while we share more reasons why we are sweet on sweet potatoes!

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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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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Top your Toast

Sandwiches with peanut butter and fruits isolated on white background.

It’s September and that means back to school. It can be hard to come up with new healthy options but we have some ideas for you! Whole wheat toast is hearty and healthy and it can be turned into a filling snack or breakfast with some fun toppings. Remember whole grain products pack a nutrient punch and keep you feeling fuller longer, check your label for 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain.

Play around with our system below to make tasty toasts part of a fun back to school routine.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Toast a piece of 100%
whole wheat bread

Add a spread

  • Peanut butter
  • Mashed avocado
  • Hummus
  • Cream cheese

Add a fruit or veggie

  • Sliced apple
  • Strawberries
  • Banana
  • Raspberries
  • Sliced tomato
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Sliced bell pepper

Make it your own!

  • Cinnamon
  • Chopped nuts
  • Hot sauce
  • Herbs
  • Cooked egg
  • Seeds

Dive in

Yum!

Here are some of our favorite toast combos.

  • Peanut butter, sliced strawberries and chopped peanuts
  • Mashed avocado, cooked egg, dash of hot sauce
  • Cream cheese, sliced cucumber and sliced tomato
  • Hummus, sliced bell pepper and a bit of cilantro

Happy Snacking!
Kelly Verburgt and Christine Hradek

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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Peanut Butter Balls For the Win!

Peanut Butter Balls It is 3:18pm on a Monday afternoon as I write this blog. How do you usually feel around 3:00 in the afternoon? If you’re anything like me, you get a little sleepy and a little hungry – or maybe a lot hungry!

This week’s blog is all about a go-to snack that can rescue you on a busy weekday afternoon when you just need a pick-me-up. Peanut Butter Balls are a sweet, chewy snack that can help you tackle the day.

As you might guess, they contain peanut butter, yum! They also contain two surprising ingredients. The first is dry oatmeal. The oatmeal binds this recipe together and provides whole grain carbohydrate for energy and fiber. You may be shocked to learn that these little snacks also get a protein boost from mashed beans in addition to the peanut butter. Weird, I know! Trust me, they’re delicious and you would never know the beans are in there once they’re dressed up with some peanut butter and honey.

I hope you’ll take my word for it and give these little treats a try. You can whip up a whole batch at once and keep them in the freezer for a quick snack anytime. Perhaps best of all, two Peanut Butter Balls cost just $0.15 to make. I challenge you to find a granola bar or trail mix for that price!

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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All about Peppers

Peppers are one of my favorite veggies. During the winter, I buy them at the grocery store most weeks. During the summer, I love to grow them myself. They are rich in vitamin C, low in calories and add lots of flavor to whatever I am cooking.

You can grow peppers in pots or in the ground. If you choose to use a pot, you’ll want it to be at least two gallons in size for a single pepper plant and you may want to use a dowel or stake to support your plant as it grows.

Keep in mind that most peppers start green and some varieties ripen to be yellow, orange, red or purple. The Iowa State University gardening experts have a publication that will help you pick the pepper type that is best for you. Peppers that are not green tend to be much more expensive. You can save a lot of money by growing peppers yourself, but be prepared that peppers that are not green will need more time on the plant to change colors, which means you may lose more to rot, pests or weather damage.

I hope you will give a pepper plant a try this summer. If you would like some tips on cutting up whole peppers, we have a video to get you started.

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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Lettuce Start Gardening!

Silly title -I know – but Spring has sprung here in Iowa and I am so excited to start growing some food on my back patio. Getting my herbs and vegetables planted is such a fun way to celebrate the warmer weather. Fresh veggies from the garden taste so good and growing your own food saves serious money.

I do not have space to plant a garden in the ground, so I use planters and pots on my patio. It is amazing how much food you can grow in a tiny space. There will be a point this summer when I can barely keep up with it!

Salad greens grow very well in containers. Here are some steps to get you started!

  1. Review the Iowa State University Container Vegetable Gardening Guide. It has all of the basics to help you get started.
  2. Choose a large pot (1 gallon minimum) with drainage holes.
  3. Put a layer of rocks or gravel in the bottom and then fill with potting soil.
  4. Use your finger to create a trench about one inch deep and sprinkle seeds about every inch in the trench. Repeat this process with an additional row or two leaving 4 inches between rows.
  5. Put your pot where bunnies and deer cannot get it. They love lettuce and they will eat it!
  6. Water the soil (not the leaves) as often as necessary to keep it moist. It does not need to be soaking wet, but should not get completely dry either. I typically water my vegetable containers every 1-2 days during the heat of the summer.
  7. After about three weeks, you will have leaves to harvest. Clip the leaves, leaving the plant base behind. The plant will grow more leaves!

This month our blogs are all about growing your own fruits and vegetables. We hope you’ll find some good ideas whether you’re just starting out or a certified green thumb. Please comment on our Facebook page or tweet us and let us know your favorite things to grow!

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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