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:
Has all of our talk about fiber this month got you thinking about adding more fiber to your meals? I sure hope so! Today I have two meal plans to share with you. Both include three meals, one snack, and 25-30 grams of fiber.
Meal Plan 1: (Fiber in grams)
- 1 1/2 cups Zesty Whole Grain Salad (5)
- 1 sandwich with
- 2 slices whole wheat bread (4)
- 1 slice cheese
- 3 ounces deli meat
Total grams of Fiber: 29 grams
Meal Plan 2: (Fiber in grams)
Total grams of Fiber: 25.5 grams
Note: If you need more or less fiber depending on your age and gender, adjust amounts of food up or down to meet your personal needs.
You may have noticed TV commercials and food packages that label a food as high in fiber or an excellent source of fiber. Have you ever wondered why fiber matters for our health? Over the next three weeks, we will focus on fiber including health benefits, how to get fiber and how to spot it on a food label. Women need about 25g of fiber per day and men need about 38g.
Fiber performs multiple functions in our bodies and it is an important part of healthy eating habits. Fiber can prevent constipation and keep your digestion moving. Think of fiber as the custodian of your colon – it sweeps everything along and keeps it moving. If someone in your house struggles with constipation try eating more high fiber foods. Fiber-rich foods also tend to be more filling than foods that are low in fiber and they are often lower in calories. This means that eating foods high in fiber can help you maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, eating more fiber may lower your LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Here are some foods to try to boosts your fiber consumption:
- Vegetables (especially peas, broccoli, corn and potatoes)
- Fruits (especially raspberries, bananas, oranges and apples and pears with their skin)
- Beans and lentils
- Whole wheat products like bread, pasta or crackers
- Whole grain cereal
Next week Justine will share a sample weekly meal plan that includes meals and snacks with high fiber ingredients.
Talk to you next week!
What are the go-to drinks around your house? I am wrapping up our series on the 5210 campaign this week with a look at sugary drinks.
Our friends at the 5210 campaign encourage 0 sugary drinks and drinking more water instead. We at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. are big fans of enjoying food and it is rare for us to encourage readers to eat or drink ‘zero’ of something. However, sugary drinks do contribute a lot of calories and no feeling of fullness. They cost you money and really give nothing that your body needs in return.
Drinking sugary drinks like fruit punch, soda, lemonade and sports drinks in childhood is associated with overweight and obesity, less milk consumption and dental cavities. If you or your kiddos are big fans of sugary drinks, try looking at them as treats. Consider setting a goal of replacing one per day with water or milk. Having a sugary drink on occasion as a special treat is a way to enjoy them without the health problems associated with drinking them as a daily habit.
Have you been successful with reducing sugary drink consumption at your house? Share what worked for you on our Facebook or Twitter this week!
As a parent, it is easy for me to look at the 2-1 of the 5-2-1-0 Campaign and think, “That is not possible”. The 2 stands for 2 hours or less of screen time per day and the 1 stands for 1 hour or more of physical activity per day. However, the more I think about it, I know that this goal is possible for us.
We have just come out of a long winter and I am pretty sure that there were days when my children were watching TV or playing on the tablet for more than 2 hours and they were not physically active for an hour. However, as the weather has warmed up and as I have watched my children enjoy spring, I am realizing that we can meet this goal now, and that we have likely been meeting this goal in the past. It turns out that my children want to be active. Lately when they get home from school they ask to play outside instead of play a game on the tablet. This does mean that I need to set my things aside and go outside also because my youngest is not old enough to go out on his own yet, but this is ok because I need the fresh air and physical activity too. It is so fun to watch them run around, climb, and explore our neighborhood.
As the weather warms up, I hope that, little by little, our screen time will go down and our active time will go up. We probably will not be perfect on this goal, but I am looking forward to summer walks, bike rides, and trips to the park. Will you work on this goal with me to encourage all of our children (and ourselves) to be more active?
For some great ideas on reducing screen time and increasing active time, check out this section of the 5-2-1-0 Campaign website.
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.
Sometimes I enjoy cooking with my children and sometimes I do not. Depending on the recipe and the cooking skill we are working on it can be a lot of fun or it can be frustrating. It is almost always messy. Regardless of how it comes out, I know that it is important because they are learning valuable skills.
My children are currently 2, 5, and 7 years old. That means they have vastly different abilities in the kitchen as well as different interest levels and attention spans. So, I need to match up each child to recipes that work well for them. Below I have broken down some age groups and matched them up with recipes that would work well with children in those age groups.
- Two years old: children this age are good at washing fruits and vegetables. They also like to help with set up and clean up. My little guy loves to set the table and, at the end of the meal, he
uses his little broom to help sweep up.
- Three years old: children this age are good at pouring and dumping ingredients. They can also help with clean up by putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher or the sink.
- Try making Banana Oatmeal Bread with your three year old. They will enjoy pouring all the ingredients into the bowl.
- Four years old: children this age are good at peeling oranges, bananas, and hard cooked eggs; kneading dough; and mixing with a spoon.
- Try making Creamy Egg Salad Sandwich with your four year old. They can peel the eggs, dump the ingredients into a bowl, and mix everything together.
- Five years old: children this age are good at cutting with a blunt knife, cracking eggs, and measuring ingredients. My five-year-old daughter’s favorite way to help in the kitchen is measuring.
- Try making Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup with your five year old. They can peel the carrots, cut the celery, and measure out the water, seasonings, and noodles.
- Six years old: children this age are developing their reading and writing skills, so they are good at writing grocery lists and starting to follow recipe directions.
- Older children: as children develop their reading and cooking skills they can become more independent in the kitchen. My oldest son is seven years old and is usually the first child awake
in the morning, so he has started preparing simple breakfasts on some mornings while I am helping the younger ones get ready for the day.
Remember that kitchen skills are cumulative, so what was learned as a two or three year old carries on into their older years. I especially like this when it comes to having extra helpers at clean up time!
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.