When creating recipes for Spend Smart. Eat Smart. three things we keep in mind are the flavor, the cost, and the nutrition content. We want our recipes to taste good, provide good nutrition, and be relatively low cost to make. To determine if our recipes provide good nutrition, each recipe must meet our nutrition guidelines. One guideline we pay particular attention to is sodium. The sodium level in our recipes needs to be low to moderate. The limit varies depending on if the recipe is for a:
- casserole style dish – 700 mg or below per serving
- entrée – 400 mg or below per serving
- side dish or snack – 200 mg or below per serving
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day and move toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. However, on average, Americans eat more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day.
In order to meet our sodium guidelines, we use various spices to add flavor to our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes so less salt is needed. The spices we most often use include black pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, and Italian seasoning blend. If you want to keep just a few spices on hand, these would be good ones to start with.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using spices:
- Use them with care, especially if you are not familiar with their flavor. You can always add more spices, but you can’t take them away so start with a small amount.
- For chilled foods, such as salads or dips, add seasonings several hours ahead so flavors can blend.
- Store spices in tightly covered containers in a cool, dry, dark place (not the refrigerator). Avoid placing spices above the stove since heat can destroy the flavor.
Next week Christine will share some tips on buying spices and making your own seasoning blends.
In just over a week, my kids will be back in school and my son will start fall soccer. I love that when playing soccer my eight year-old son gets to run around being active. On the other hand, I feel that the snacks that are given to the players after their games could be improved. Often times my son gets a small bottle of sports drink along with donuts or some kind of packaged snack cakes. Even though my son runs when playing soccer, the game is only one hour and he rotates out with other players. Therefore, he isn’t playing for the full hour. Sports drinks are meant to replace sodium and potassium that is lost in sweat when being continuously active for an hour or more or when it is especially hot outside. Otherwise, water works well to keep kids hydrated. We enjoy donuts and other treats occasionally but to teach kids how to better fuel their bodies for activity, here are some other ideas for snacks after a game:
If you sign-up to take snacks for after a game this fall, I’d encourage you to consider taking one of these. You might be surprised at how much the kids enjoy them!
Written by ISU Dietetic Intern Alexa Berkenpas
Those printed dates on our food products can spark confusion at the grocery store and at home. The confusion can come with terms such as “sell-by” or “use-by” among others. Understanding these terms is important when you’re trying to reduce food waste and save money. The following terms will help you make choices about what to buy and how long to keep it.
- Sell-By: The sell-by date is determined by the food product manufacturer and is often found on perishable items like meat, seafood, poultry, and milk. It informs the store of how long the product should be on display. You should buy a product before the sell-by date. You can still store the item at home beyond that date, as long as you follow safe storage procedures. For example, milk will generally be safe to drink one week after the “sell-by” date on the package, assuming it has been continuously refrigerated at or below 40°F. This Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart can help you determine how long to keep meat, seafood, poultry and eggs.
- Use-By, Best if Used By, Best By, Best Before: These “use-by” and “best” dates are generally found on shelf-stable products such as ketchup, salad dressings, and peanut butter. The date, which is provided by the manufacturer, tells you how long the product is likely to remain at its absolute best quality when unopened. It is not a safety date. Examine the product to gauge the quality after the date and discard foods that have developed an off odor, flavor, or appearance.
- Expires on: The only place you’re likely to see this is on baby formula and some baby foods, which are the only food products the federal government regulates with regard to dating. Always use the product before this expiration date has passed for safety reasons.
- Stamped Dates on Packages: Products like bagged salad greens, bread, and pre-cut vegetables often feature a date stamped on the package. This date is to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale. It can also help the purchaser know the time limit to purchase or use a product at its best quality
A better understanding of these terms will not only help reduce food waste, which is a prevalent problem in the United States; it can also help families save money and help them to avoid throwing away tomorrow’s dinner. To learn more about how to maximize the freshness of your food, visit https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp/index.html or download the FoodKeeper App to learn how to keep your items fresher for longer.
As a mom, I want to make foods for my family that taste good and are good for them. Sometimes I do this by altering a recipe to make it a bit healthier but still taste good. For some recipes, I reduce the amount of an ingredient. In others, I substitute one ingredient for another. Small changes can make a big difference in the amount of fat, salt, sugar and fiber in a dish.
Here are some ways I alter recipes to make them healthier:
- Reduce the amount of sugar by 1/3.
- Replace ¼ to ½ of refined flour with whole-wheat flour.
- Use plain yogurt instead of sour cream.
- Substitute skim or low-fat milk for whole milk.
- Use whole grains in place of refined grains.
For more ways to alter recipes for better health, use this guide by Purdue Extension. Try making one change at a time so you can see what works best for your recipe and what your family likes. And some recipes, like family traditions, might be best to enjoy as they are!
This past month we’ve been talking all about fiber! Christine and Justine shared about the health benefits of fiber and how we can include high fiber foods in our meals and snacks. Today I’m going to share with you how to find high fiber foods using the food label.
The Nutrition Facts Label is found on food and beverage packages and is a helpful tool for increasing the amount of dietary fiber you eat. It shows the amount in grams (g) and the Percent Daily Value (%DV) of dietary fiber in one serving of the food. You can see on this label for brown rice that there are 2g of dietary fiber in ½ cup (or 2/3 cup after it is cooked). That is 8% DV. A good tip to remember is that:
- 5% DV or less of dietary fiber per serving is low
- 20% DV or more of dietary fiber per serving is high
When comparing foods, choose foods with a higher %DV of dietary fiber.
Another place to look is the ingredient list. Look for whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal, rolled oats, whole grain corn, quinoa, barley, or bulgur. The ingredients on a Nutrition Facts Label are listed by weight, so the ingredients that make up more of the product are listed first. Look for products that have whole grain ingredients at the top of the list.
To get more fiber:
5210 is a catchy way to spread the message about healthy habits. The nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program began in Maine and has expanded to many states, including Iowa. The numbers remind us of the following habits we should do each day and help our kids to do:
- 5 or more fruits and vegetables
- 2 hours or less recreational screen time
- 1 hour or more of physical activity
- 0 sugary drinks, more water
Today, I’m going to focus on eating 5 or more fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides vitamins and minerals, important for supporting growth and development, and healthy immune function in children. High daily intake of fruits and vegetables among adults is associated with lower rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and possibly, some types of cancers. And in addition to that, they taste good!
Boost your family’s fruit and vegetable intake by eating them on a potato, in a tomato, or with a toothpick.
Next week we’ll share how to reduce screen time and increase physical activity.
This week in our series on getting kids involved in the cooking and shopping, I’m going to share some tips for getting kids involved in grocery shopping. When I was grocery shopping with my 4-year-old daughter recently, I was thinking what I might share in the blog. As she was pushing the little cart she was using, I was thinking, children might look cute pushing those little carts but as a parent, sometimes they are my worst nightmare. Funny thing is, when I was back in the office and reading through some past blogs, I shared those same thoughts in a blog about grocery shopping with my son 5 years ago when he was 3! I’d encourage you to read that blog for ideas to get younger kids involved when grocery shopping.
Today, I’d like to share a couple of ways older kids can be involved with grocery shopping.
- Use our grocery budget calculator. The online calculator provides the weekly and monthly amount your family needs to spend for nutritious meals on USDA’s Low-cost Plan. To use the calculator you will need the age, gender, and number of meals eaten away from home for each member of your household. You and your child can then compare this to how much you spend on groceries. The online calculator provides tips on how to reduce your grocery bill if you are spending over that amount. It also provides ideas if you are spending under that amount. This activity can help children better understand the cost of food and why it’s important to not waste food. If you’re not sure how much you spend on food, we have resources for tracking your food expenses.
- Download and use our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app. Older kids who have cellphones can download our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app to use in the store. Or you can let them use the app on your phone when they are shopping with you. Kids can enter information into the unit price calculator to help you determine which item is the better buy. Or they can look up information about different produce in the store using our Produce Basics to help you determine how to select produce and how you might prepare it at home.
Next week in our series we’ll share a recipe kids can help make.
One thing I feel I do a pretty good job at is letting my kids help in the kitchen. Even though it takes a little more time and there are a few more messes, it is fun and I know my kids are learning important skills. On the other hand, one area I don’t take the time to get them involved in is meal planning. Once in a while I will ask them to pick between a couple of choices but that’s about it. Meal planning is definitely a skill I want my children to have as adults, so now is the time!
Just like with cooking, getting kids involved in meal planning may mean it takes more time but it’s time you can spend together and your kids will learn valuable skills, including how to plan a balanced meal. And since they are helping to plan the meal, they may be more likely to eat what is served.
Want to give this a try with me? Here are some tips you and I can both use to get our kids involved with meal planning.
1. Download our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet. I like our worksheet because it has the food groups listed at the bottom so you can make sure you include a variety of food groups in your meals. As you plan your meals, have your kids tell you which foods are part of which food group.
2. Make a list of options. If you have younger kids, make a list of options based on what you have on hand and what items are on sale at the store. Then they can choose between options such as spaghetti or lasagna, broccoli or carrots. If your kids are older, they may want to help think of the dishes to make. Another option would be to plan the main dishes and have your kids choose which fruits and vegetables to have.
3. Have a kid’s night. If planning a week’s worth of meals with your kids sounds too overwhelming, choose one night that they can plan the meal. You can provide guidelines such as they need to include foods from three different food groups.
If your kids help you plan a whole week’s worth of meals or just one night, they will learn skills that they can use for a lifetime. Next week I’ll share some tips for how to get kids involved with grocery shopping.
Last week Justine shared with you how she does meal planning for her family. I use a similar strategy for my family of four. If you are new to meal planning or starting as a new years’ resolution, we have just the thing for you, a sample three-week meal plan. It includes ideas for meals and snacks as well as links to recipes!
Our sample is a place to start and can be adapted for your family’s needs based on what they like, how many snacks they need each day, and family activities. When creating a meal plan, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Plan for leftovers – To help keep food costs low and reduce food waste, make leftovers a part of your meal plan. You will see in the sample meal plan that we planned to have leftovers from supper the next day for lunch occasionally. Depending on the size of your family, you may need to increase the size of the recipe if you want to have leftovers to use at another meal.
- Prepare extra – To maximize the benefit of your time in the kitchen, plan recipes that use similar ingredients so you can cook extra of an ingredient to use in a recipe another day. For example, if you make Chicken Alfredo Pasta one night, cook extra chicken to use in Chicken Club Salad the next day for lunch. This will also help with food costs and food waste. For food safety purposes, you should use extra cooked meat in a recipe within a day or two of it being cooked.
- Keep variety in mind – Even though we recommend using leftovers and preparing extra ingredients to use in multiple recipes, it’s also a good idea to include variety in your menu plans. This helps keep meals exciting and makes sure you get a variety of vitamins and minerals. Use a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables. Try different kinds of protein like beef, chicken, or fish and non-meat sources like eggs, beans and nuts. Use different grains like whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread.
- Plan the fruits and vegetables – Many times the main meal is planned, which is often a source of protein, but not the side dishes. Be sure to plan what fruits and vegetables will be a part of the meals and snacks. This helps to be sure they are included in meals and snacks and are part of your shopping list. Use different kinds of fruits and vegetables including fresh, canned, frozen, and dried.
Meal planning may take a little time when you first get started, but it saves time when it comes to getting a meal on the table. No extra tips to the grocery store and stressing about what you are going to have for supper.