Switching out Protein Sources in Recipes

In August, I wrote a blog on ‘Meal Planning Tips for Easy and Healthy Meals’. In the blog I mentioned that the ‘themes’ I use when meal planning are to include a different protein food each night. I use beef, pork, chicken, fish and then have one night that is vegetarian. By doing this I am helping my family vary the kinds of protein foods we eat.

There are lots of vegetarian recipes available but today I wanted to share how I make a recipe vegetarian if the one I want to make originally calls for meat. (When I say meat, I’m referring to anything that is an animal protein.)

Protein is an important piece of good nutrition and meat is an excellent source of protein. So, if I am going to remove meat from a recipe, then I want to be sure and replace it with another source of protein. Some other sources of protein that I use include eggs, dairy, beans, peas and lentils. Tofu would be another good substitute for meat.

Beans, peas, and lentils work well in place of meat in soups and casseroles. Beans also work well in pasta dishes. I use one 15 ounce can of beans in place of one pound of meat.

Cottage cheese is high in protein and I use it in stuffed pasta shells to add protein.

Tofu is a good substitute in dishes that call for marinating meat. The marinade helps to flavor the tofu. A 16 ounce package of tofu could be used in place of one pound of meat.

If you want to try making some recipes vegetarian, here are two Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that provide tips on how to use beans in place of meat.

Chicken, Corn, and Rice Casserole

Tamale Pie

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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Meat Alternatives: How Do They Stack Up?

Last week I wrote about milk alternatives and how they compare to cow’s milk. This week, we will look at meat alternatives. There are lots of meat alternatives available but how do these meat alternatives stack up nutritionally? And what about cost? Let’s take a look. We have chosen ground beef as a comparison since it is a very commonly chosen animal protein.

 AmountProtein (grams)Saturated Fat (grams)Iron*Sodium*Cost
Ground beef (85/15)4 oz21715% 3%5.99/16 oz
Beyond Meat Beyond Beef®4 oz20520% 15%9.99/16 oz
Impossible™ Burger4 oz19820%16%9.99/12 oz
Tofu4 oz11.611%0%2.99/16 oz
Canned Jackfruit½ cup2020%37%3.49/14 oz

*5% is considered a low source, 20% is considered a high source

Beyond Meat®, which is gluten- and soy-free, is very similar to ground beef in protein content, as is the ImpossibleTM Burger, which contains soy. Tofu is lower in protein than ground beef, but still provides 11 grams in 4 ounces. Jackfruit is low in protein so should not be eaten as main source of protein.

Looking at saturated fat:

  • Beyond Meat® contains 25% of the daily value of saturated fat, similar to 90/10 ground beef.
  • The ImpossibleTM Burger contains 40% of the daily value of saturated fat, similar to 80/20 ground beef.
  • Tofu and jackfruit are both very low in saturated fat.

There are other nutrients that are important to consider, too. Meat is a main dietary source of iron. Iron is not present in most meat alternatives unless they have been fortified (like the ImpossibleTM Burger), so check the label. Finally, most meat alternatives have higher levels of sodium than ground beef. Both Beyond Meat® and the ImpossibleTM Burger are higher in sodium. Tofu is very low in sodium. The jackfruit used in the comparison is canned, so it has a high level of sodium. Other sources of jackfruit may be lower in sodium.

In addition to nutrition, cost also varies among meat alternatives. Beyond Meat® and the ImpossibleTM Burger are both more expensive than ground beef, while tofu and canned jackfruit are less expensive.

As you can see, there are many nutritional differences between meat alternatives. Therefore, it is important to check the Nutrition Facts label when considering meat alternatives or other foods that are new to you. This way, you can choose the best option for your health needs.

Written by Anna Lauterbach, ISU Dietetics Student

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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Got Milk (Alternatives)?

If you’ve taken a walk through the dairy aisle during the past couple of years, you’ve probably noticed a lot of new products popping up on the shelves, like oat milk or almond milk. As a lactose intolerant person, I have been enjoying this new variety of food options, but as a nutrition student, I wonder about the nutritional value of these products compared to cow’s milk.

If you’re lactose intolerant like me, you can get lactose-free cow’s milk. If you can’t drink any cow’s milk, there are many other options, but it is important to be aware of the differences in nutrients. Unless they are fortified with calcium, and vitamins A, B and D, you may find these are missing from milk alternatives. I have listed some significant differences below, but there may be others, so check the Nutrition Facts label of any products you are considering.

  • Soy milk is the most similar to cow’s milk nutritionally including having a similar amount of protein per serving. However, added flavors like original or vanilla have added sugars.
  • Almond milk has about ¼ of the calories of cow’s milk, but it is low in protein. Additionally, it is not fortified with vitamin B12 like other milk alternatives, so it may not be the best option if you are vegetarian or vegan.
  • Coconut milk contains more saturated fats, so it may not be the best option if you have heart disease.
  • Rice milk is an option for people who are allergic to soy or nuts. However, it has twice the carbs of regular milk and little protein, so you may want to consider other options if you have diabetes.

A note on dairy alternatives for other products: Increasingly, there are more dairy alternatives for other products such as yogurt and cream cheese. Many of these products will have a different nutritional value from the dairy products they are imitating. These differences are due in part to the type of dairy alternative they are using. For instance, coconut milk yogurt will be higher in saturated fat. However, some of these products may also have added sugars to make the product taste better. Always read and compare the Nutrition Facts label to ensure you are getting the best product for your needs!

Written by Anna Lauterbach, ISU Dietetics Student

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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Update from Justine – What do I Grow?

In early June, I wrote about how I decide what to grow in our garden. When planning out our garden this year, I asked my children what they wanted to grow. My oldest son chose to grow four different pepper plants, my daughter chose to grow romaine lettuce, and my youngest son chose to grow zinnias. These choices did not take up a lot of space, so I added two tomato plants and two acorn squash plants. 

My children checked the garden every day and helped with the watering and weeding. Their plants took off and were looking good, but nature had other plans. We left for a few days and, while we were gone, the rabbits helped themselves to the lettuce, pepper leaves, and zinnias. The children were disappointed, but they have worked hard to keep two of the pepper plants and a few zinnias alive.

My children have also worked hard to protect the tomatoes and squash. As you can see in the picture below, that hard work has paid off. The tomatoes and squash have nearly taken over the garden. We have enjoyed watching the flowers bloom and then watching those blooms transform into beautiful tomatoes and squash. My children do not like to eat tomatoes and squash on their own, but they do like both in sauces and soups. So, we are planning to cook and freeze much of our harvest to use for meals this winter.

Justine Hoover

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

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Can It, Freeze It, Dry It

Over the past few weeks we’ve shared how our gardens are growing (Christine, Katy, and Jody ). And next week Justine will give us an update about her garden. Eating delicious home-grown food is a joy of gardening, so it has been fun to review the ways we use our garden produce. While fresh produce from the garden is delicious, sometimes you have so much you need to save it for later.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has many food preservation resources, including virtual and in person classes. Preserve the Taste of Summer offers participants the opportunity to learn safe food preservation techniques, including canning, freezing and dehydrating. For more information and to find a class, check out https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/preserve-taste-summer.

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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Meal Planning Tips for Easy and Healthy Meals

There are sixteen days until my kids start school! Along with school starting, my kids will also be starting football, dance, and piano so our schedule is going to get busy. One thing that helps me feel less stressed when life gets busy is meal planning. By spending 30 minutes on the weekend planning meals for the week, I spend less time worrying about what we will eat for supper each night. I know my family isn’t the only one looking ahead to a busy fall, so today I wanted to share three tips I use when meal planning that you might find helpful.

  1. Pick a theme for each night. Some common themes I’ve heard before are Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, or Pizza on Friday. When you have a theme, it’s one less decision you have to make. On Tuesday, you know you are going to have tacos so you just have to decide what kind of tacos you want. The ‘themes’ I use are a little different. I have a different protein food for each night. And one night is always leftovers or make your own. I stock up on meat, fish and chicken when it is on sale and put it in my freezer. Here are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes for each kind of protein you might like to try. Not only does this make planning easy for me, but it also helps us vary our proteins which is important for good nutrition.
Slow Cooker RoastBroiled SalmonQuick Pad ThaiStuffed Pasta ShellsWraps “Your” Way
Beef and Vegetable Stir-FryBaked Fish and ChipsChicken FajitasVegetable Frittata
Sweet Pork Stir-FryFish and Noodle SkilletCheesy Chicken CasseroleVegetable Quesadillas
  1. Make one dish meals. I make a lot of one dish meals because it makes my life easier. There are fewer dishes to do afterward and the only other thing I have to add to the meal is some fruit and something to drink, like milk or water. My kids don’t eat a lot of vegetables so I always include a fruit I know they will eat.
  1. Keep side dishes simple. Even though I like to cook, after a busy day when everyone is hungry I need to get supper done quickly. So in addition to making a lot of one dish meals, I always keep my side dishes simple. We eat a lot of cut up fruits and vegetables as sides. Some of our favorites are apples, carrots, and pepper strips. I also use a lot of frozen vegetables that I can heat quickly in the microwave. In the colder months, I like to make roasted vegetables.

For more ideas and resources on meal planning, check out the menu planning section of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website.

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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On the Road Again

With travel restrictions lifting, my family and I are starting to spend quite a bit of time in the car to make up for a year of little travel. My husband and I have family and friends across the country. Flying with a toddler does not seem like an easy task so we have started to take smaller road trips in the past several months. Depending on the time of day that we are traveling, we often need to have snack breaks. When we travel, we try to pick healthier options at gas stations and rest stops. Today I would like to share some of our favorites with you!

A few of my go-to travel snacks include trail mix, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese sticks, pretzels, and popcorn. Most rest stops and gas stations have a variety of healthier snack options. I have had good luck finding whole grain snacks, whole fruits and a variety of trail mix options at gas stations. One thing I have noticed is that convenience store options tend to be more expensive. On our last road trip, I purchased a small bag of trail mix from a gas station for $4.79. Compared to my local grocery store, this was almost $2 more than what I would typically spend on a similar item.

Therefore, when I know I am going to be traveling, I try to plan my snacks and purchase them ahead of time. Spend Smart. Eat Smart. has a number of easy, inexpensive snack items that are great for road trips. Some of my favorites are the Popcorn Trail Mix and Breakfast Cookies. For items that need to be kept cold, like string cheese, I will pack a small cooler or lunchbox with ice packs and a thermometer to make sure they stay safe.

I would love to hear if you have packed any of the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes in your travel bag. Feel free to share any of your go-to travel snacks with us on social media or in the comments section. Cheers to your next road trip adventure!

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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Benefitting from Our Neighbor’s Talents

Gardening is not my strong suit. Quite honestly, the thought of gardening and planting flowers brings a lot of stress! After years of attempting to garden and losing motivation due to brown flowers and plants, I eventually came to terms with the fact that my family’s produce would need to be purchased from the grocery store or a local farmer’s market. Fortunately, one of our neighbors has a gift and has planted a garden to share with a few families on our street. Like mentioned in the previous gardening posts, our neighbor has done the research to determine what items to grow in her garden. With a lot of trial and error, she has become quite successful!

Although I don’t grow my own garden, my family has been able to benefit from our neighbor’s talents and enjoy the fruit of her labor. Before the growing season begins, she asks for our input on what seeds to purchase and takes donations from neighbors to help offset the cost of seeds, dirt, fencing (to attempt to keep away the bunnies), and additional items she may need to purchase to upgrade her garden space. As part of our contribution, our toddler provides art for her garden space and neighbors help by pulling weeds and planting. As the vegetables begin to grow, she divides up the produce and shares it with those who have made contributions. We have learned a lot from our neighbor over the past few years and gardening has helped us build a new connection with her.

Neighborhood gardens can be a great way to use everyone’s skills and share in some of the costs. We don’t have the time or the space to create a successful garden in our backyard, so having a neighbor who enjoys the work and is willing to share her talents with us has been a great experience. Check out this Neighborhood Gardens blog from our friends over at AnswerLine that highlights additional tips on how to get started!

Later this summer I will be sharing what our neighbor has been able to grow, as well as different recipes we will make at home with the fresh produce.

Cheers to building connections through neighborhood gardens!

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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Growing Vegetables in Pots

This week in our gardening series, I’m going to share the plans my son and I have for doing some container gardening at our house.

Growing up on a farm, I helped my mom with our garden. And one year I even planned the garden out and had it as a 4-H project. Since that time though, the only gardening I’ve done was a few years ago when my daughter was a toddler and my son was 5 or 6 and I tried growing some carrots, lettuce and tomatoes in pots on our deck. It went….okay. The tomatoes were too big for the pot so they didn’t grow that well and the carrots were too bunched so didn’t grow very big. Lessons learned!

Fast forward to this year when my son is 11 and is interested in having a garden. Instead of digging up a space in our yard, we’ve decided to grow a few things in containers on our deck again. We have a neighbor who is a talented woodworker who made some wooden planters for us to use.

My son and I have decided to grow cherry tomatoes, peppers, and some lettuce. I’d also like to grow some basil. To help me do a better job at choosing varieties of these vegetables that grow well in containers, I’m going to use this handout on Container Vegetable Gardening. I’m looking forward to this gardening adventure with my kids! Check back later this summer and see if things are going better than they did the last time I tried growing vegetables in a pot!

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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Herb Gardening in Small Spaces

Last week we heard about our friend Jill’s experience with gardening throughout her life. She shared some wonderful tips for planning a garden and using the information on seed packets to help you make decisions. I would like to share a slightly different perspective. I live in a small house and I do not have land to till up and plant a garden. I still love to grow some food though, so I do container gardening.

Container gardening is a very simple approach to gardening that allows you to use a patio or porch to grow food in pots or other containers. It is helpful when you do not have land to till up or when you just want to grow a few plants and not a whole garden.

Herbs are my favorite food to grow in the summer in Iowa. They thrive in the sun and warm weather. They are easy to maintain. I just water them whenever their soil becomes dry to the touch. Herbs will even grow inside if you have a very sunny window for them. It is so wonderful to be able to snip a few sprigs to add flavor to my cooking. Herbs are rather expensive at the grocery store and they spoil quickly, so being able to cut them from the back patio is a real treat.

  • Parsley is delightful in salads and as a final topper for things like roasted veggies or fish.
  • Basil tastes delicious with tomatoes and pasta. I also love sliced basil stirred into cottage cheese.
  • Rosemary, sage and thyme are tasty additions to roasted veggies. Toss them with the veggies before cooking and enjoy.

If you have a sunny spot and a sturdy container of soil, you’re ready to get started! For a bit more information, check out Growing Herbs in Containers from our friends in Iowa State University’s Horticulture department. Next week Jody will share about her experience growing vegetables in containers at her house.

Happy Gardening!

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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