Meal Planning for the Health of It

Last week Rachel shared five red flags to look out for when considering diet advice. In the blog, she
mentioned learning new skills that can improve your health, like meal planning, instead of focusing
solely on weight. Meal planning is a popular practice; especially at the beginning of the year when
people are trying to eat better, save money and be more organized. It can help you check off all three!
Today I’m going to share with you five tips for meal planning with health in mind.

  1. Include foods from each of the food groups. This allows you to get a variety of nutrients provided by
    each of the food groups needed for good health. Our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet has a checklist at
    the bottom to help you determine if you included something from each food group.
  2. Balance the food groups throughout the day. Aim to have 1-2 food groups at snacks and 3-4 food
    groups at meals. For example, at breakfast you might have a scrambled egg, slice of whole-wheat toast,
    an orange, and glass of milk. Then at snack you have celery sticks with peanut butter.
  3. Include two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables. This is a general guide for each person
    per day. An example would be a banana for breakfast, an apple and broccoli for lunch, and vegetable
    soup for dinner. To determine the specific amount you need and for information on what counts as a
    serving, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
  4. Include whole grains. Whole grains have more fiber, which is important for health. It is recommended
    to make half your grains whole grains. Therefore, if your family prefers white pasta, balance that out by
    including other whole grains in your menu plan like brown rice or whole wheat bread.
  5. Include both plant and animal proteins. Animal proteins are a good source of iron while plant
    proteins are higher in fiber. If you have chicken at lunch, consider having lentil tacos for supper. Or mix
    both beans and meat with pasta instead of just meat.
    If you’re new to meal planning, use our sample meal planning calendar to help get started. We also have
    a new sample vegetarian meal planning calendar.

Next week Justine will share a recipe for Cheesy Chicken Casserole that you just might want to include
on your meal plan!

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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The Red Flags of Diet Advice and Where to Turn for Help

The new year is upon us and you can hardly turn on the TV, open up a magazine, or visit with a friend without some diet trend surfacing. Whether it be probiotics to boost your gut health or intermittent fasting, everyone seems to be an expert. While there is no shortage of diets, reliable nutrition information can seem scarce at times. So where do you turn when presented with nutrition advice that seems well intentioned, but actually may do more harm than good? Read below for five red flags to look out for when considering diet advice.

Red flags when considering diet advice:

  • Promises rapid weight loss. Weight loss more rapid than 1-2 pounds per week tends to be regained even faster. Many factors play into our weight status, including genetics and physical activity levels, along with what we eat. Rather than focusing solely on weight, consider if you will be learning new skills that improve your health, like meal prepping or choosing whole grain foods.
  • Cuts out entire food groups. Removing an entire food group (like dairy, grains, or legumes) without a medical reason to do so (such as a food allergy) is impractical and can cause you to miss out on key nutrients.
  • Detoxes/cleanses/fasts. Did you know your body comes with built in detoxifiers? That’s right, your kidneys and liver have been doing this since the day you were born! Additionally, there are many concerns regarding following a cleanse diet for an extended period of time, including fatigue due to limited protein, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and dehydration.
  • Requires you to purchase pills/bars/or shakes. A sustainable (and affordable!) eating pattern is based on food readily available in grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
  • No need to be physically active. Physical activity is essential for good health and weight management and should be a part of your daily routine.

So what should you be looking for in terms of nutrition advice? First, consider recommendations that focus on your overall meal pattern rather than a specific diet. Your health status is a reflection of what you consume over the course of time, not a diet you follow for a few weeks. A healthy meal pattern encourages balance and moderation, does not exclude any particular food or food group, and emphasizes small changes to improve your health. For healthy meal pattern ideas, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart., choosemyplate.gov, and www.eatright.org. Next week on the blog, Jody will share some tips and tools to help you get started with healthy meal planning.

Written by: Rachel Wall, MS, RD, LD

Which Yogurt Should I Buy?

For me, one of the most confusing parts of the grocery store is the yogurt area.  There are so many options! There are different types and flavors, different nutrition, and different prices.  To play it safe, I usually stick with what my family likes – citrus flavored yogurts for me, peach yogurt for my husband, drinkable yogurt for my oldest son, Greek yogurt for my daughter, and small containers of yogurt for my youngest son.  

 

But, I have wondered, what if I am sacrificing nutrition or paying too much by playing it safe?  Down below, I have created a table to help make decisions when buying yogurt. I used the information for yogurt that is available at a local grocery store where I shop.

 

Enjoy!

Yogurt Type

Container Size (oz) Cost Sugar (g) Calcium (%DV) Vitamin D (%DV)

Fruit flavored (original)

6

$0.46 19 20

20

Fruit flavored (light)

6 $0.46 10 15

20

Plain

5.3 $0.78 6 15

15

Greek fruit flavored (light)

5.3 $1.00 6 15

15

Tubes

1 tube

$0.28

(per tube)

8 10

10

Drinkable                 3.1

$0.39

(per bottle)

9

10

20

*Percent Daily Value or %DV is the amount of that nutrient for a 2000 calorie diet.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Fast Food Restaurant vs Homemade Breakfast

Written by Kathryn Standing

Student Assistant, ISU Dietetics

It can be difficult to keep to a budget, keep yourself healthy and keep to your schedule. I have been trying to change my breakfast routine with the goal of reducing my stress and spending, all while being healthier. Easy right? If I pick up breakfast on the way to work from a drive-through, would it save me time and money? How healthy would it be? I tried a couple of fast food breakfasts near my home to see what I find and I’m sharing the low down with you.

Drive through breakfast

Sandwich

Time: 10 min — The fast food restaurant is about 6 min out of my way and the time through the drive-through was 4 min for a total of 10 min invested in my breakfast.

Cost: $ 2.59

Calories: 340

Fat: 15 g

Saturated fat: 5 g

Cholesterol: 175 mg

Sodium: 640 mg

Fiber: 1g

→ Comments: The sandwich was pretty good! I got crumbs all over my car, though. Plus, I couldn’t resist getting some breakfast potatoes, which I regretted later. If I had chosen this sandwich on a croissant instead it would have doubled my fat and added 160 calories!

Parfait

Time: 12 min — The fast food restaurant is about 5 min out of my way and was very busy! The time through the drive-through was 7 min for a total of 12 min invested in my breakfast.

Cost: $ 4.19

Calories: 240                                   

Fiber: 3g

Fat: 2.5 g                                          

Sugar: 26 g, Added 18.95g

Cholesterol: 5 mg

Sodium: 125 mg

→ Comments: It was a good parfait, very sweet! It was also in a handy container. The fast-food restaurant I went to was very busy. I managed to get the last parfait, but I worry they would be out if I wanted to get one again.

At home breakfast

Sandwich

1 whole wheat English muffin – 1 egg – 1 slice reduced fat white American singles

Time: 7 min — It took me about 4 min to cook the egg and toast the bread, plus another 3 min for clean-up.

Cost: $ .56

Calories: 245

Fat: 8.5 g

Saturated fat: 3 g

Cholesterol: 196 mg

Sodium: 530 mg

Fiber: 3g

→ Comments: This sandwich was very similar to the one I had gotten at the drive-thru, except I used the whole wheat version of an English muffin. The sandwich I made at home had better nutrition for me with almost half the fat and triple the fiber. Though the cholesterol was higher, I assume that is only because of a difference in the type and size of eggs used. The sodium was a little lower in mine, but this experiment does show that sodium is hard to limit sometimes.

Parfait

½ cup plain non-fat yogurt sweetened with 1 tsp honey – ½ cup berries (frozen, thawed) – 2 T granola

Time: 5 min — It took me about 3 min to make, plus another 2 min to clean up.

Cost: $1.16

Calories: 150

Fat: 2 g

Cholesterol: 5 mg

Sodium: 80 mg

Fiber: 6.9g

Sugar: 19.2 g,

Added sugars 6g

→ Comments: This was so easy to make. It has significantly less sugar and sodium, as well as more than double the fiber!

Verdict: Overall it was significantly cheaper to make the food at home. I saved $2.00+ on the sandwich and $3.00+ on the parfait, that’s over $5.00! $5.00+ per workday is equivalent to savings of over $100 per month! Both of my homemade items were a lot healthier for me too. The food from the fast food places was convenient, though I had to clean the crumbs out of my car later and it didn’t end up saving me any time. The largest downside for me was the temptation of all the other options available. Fried potatoes, whip cream coffee mocha-whatever-latte, and icing covered anything calling my name make it hard to stick to healthy eating. Overall the answer seems clear: skip the fast food breakfast and take the 5-7 min to make yourself something at home. Your wallet, your health, and your schedule will thank you.

Give Your Brain a Boost with Breakfast

Written by Amber Baughman
ISU Dietetic Intern

Mornings can be extremely busy, and sometimes it is hard to find time to fit in breakfast. I am not a morning person, so I need an easy and fast breakfast option every morning. Breakfast has been called the most important meal of the day and for good reason. Studies have shown that eating breakfast has many benefits, including feelings of well-being and better cognitive performance. Eating breakfast is associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Although breakfast is important for adults, it is even more crucial that children have breakfast every day. Eating breakfast can help children and adolescents do better in school by improving memory, test grades, school attendance, and mood.

Sadly, breakfast consumption has been declining among youth in the U.S. However, with some planning ahead, breakfast can be ready in just a few minutes. One of my favorite breakfast items to make is Scrambled Egg Muffins. They are like a blank canvas, you can use whatever vegetables, meat, or cheese you have leftover in the fridge. They are also packed full of protein, so they will help you stay full longer! I make six of them on Sunday and then warm one or two up each morning for breakfast. Now you can sleep in those few extra minutes in the morning and still enjoy an easy, healthy breakfast!

Oatmeal Cookies

It is the time of year for sharing food, especially cookies.  Our December recipe of the month, Oatmeal Cookies, is perfect for sharing.  Take these delicious cookies to a party, family gathering, or cookie exchange.

You can also make these cookies into a gift.  Start with a quart sized glass jar. Pour in any optional ingredients you would like to include from the recipe such as dried cranberries, raisins, white chocolate chips, or coconut.  Then pour in the oatmeal. Top that with the brown sugar. Pour in the rest of the dry ingredients – the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Close the lid tightly on the jar so there are no accidental spills.  Write out the instructions to the recipe on a card to give with the jar. Make sure to include amounts for the wet ingredients that are not included in the jar. You could even give out an individual serving size cup of applesauce with each jar – these are the perfect amount for this recipe.  Finally, share your jar as a gift! It is so fun to give and receive homemade gifts like this.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Homemade Dried Onion Soup Mix

Last week, I shared our homemade taco seasoning mix.  This week, I would like to share our homemade dried onion soup mix.  This dried onion soup mix is useful in seasoning soups, dips, and meats.  To make this mix, stir together dried minced onion, sodium free beef bouillon granules, onion powder, and sugar and store in an airtight container for up to six months.

This mix makes the equivalent of three packages of store bought dried onion soup mix.  This homemade mix is more expensive than the store bought version. Homemade costs $3.72 for the equivalent of three packages and the store bought is $0.72 for two packages.  However, the extra cost is more than balanced out by the savings in sodium. The homemade version has 15 mg of sodium in 1/3 cup (about the same as one store bought package) while the store bought version has 4,560 mg of sodium in one package, which is 570 mg of sodium per serving.   

The savings in sodium in this mix is important because reducing sodium consumption has health impacts.  Find more information about the connection between sodium and high blood pressure here and sodium for children here.

Try our homemade Dried Onion Soup Mix in our Slow Cooker Roast or any other recipe that calls for dried onion soup mix.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco seasoning mix is a staple in many people’s cupboards.  It adds great flavor to taco meat, beans, soups, and dips. You can buy pre-packaged taco seasoning mix at the store or you can use our homemade version.  To make homemade taco seasoning mix, you simply need to combine minced onion, chili powder, cornstarch, crushed dried red pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, and ground cumin in a container with a tight fitting lid.  This seasoning mix lasts a year in your cupboard.

 

This seasoning mix makes the equivalent of six packages of store bought taco seasoning mix.  The homemade seasoning mix costs about the same as store bought. Homemade is $2.46 for six packages and the store brand at my local grocery store is $0.44 for one package, which comes out to $2.64 for six packages.  

 

The big difference between the two mixes is the sodium content.  One package of store bought taco seasoning mix contains 2,580 mg of sodium, which is 430 mg per serving.   Two tablespoons of our homemade taco seasoning mix (the equivalent of one store bought package) contains 80 mg of sodium, which is about 13 mg per serving.

 

Use our Taco Seasoning Mix in Lentil Tacos, Slow Cooker Lentils, or in your own favorite taco recipe.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

Our November recipe of the month is Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup.  It is perfect for a busy day. All the ingredients go into the slow cooker in the morning, cook on low for 8-10 hours, and you have a delicious soup ready to eat in the evening.

There are some wonderful things I love about this recipe.

  • It is easy to put together. There is no cutting up or chopping needed to get this recipe into the slow cooker.  The chicken just needs to be shredded right before serving this soup.
  • It uses dried beans. Dried beans are tasty, inexpensive, and nutritious.  They take a little longer to cook, so they are perfect for the slow cooker.  Fair warning, the dark color of the black beans changes the outer color of the chicken.
  • It freezes well. This recipe is great to measure out into single serving containers and freeze for lunches.  Or, you can eat half of the soup one night and freeze the other half of the soup for another night.
  • It is great for a party. This soup tastes delicious with different toppings – avocado, crushed tortilla chips, sliced jalapenos, plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheese.  You can serve the soup out of the slow cooker and let your guests add any toppings they would like.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Spice it up!

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.

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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