For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans include recommendations by life stage, from birth through older adulthood. ISU Extension and Outreach is offering training for child care providers in Iowa that include the new recommendations for feeding infants and toddlers.
For the first time in 20 years, the Nutrition Facts label, found on packaged foods, has been significantly updated to make it easier to understand. The Nutrition Facts label can help you make food choices for good health. It is a valuable tool and we want to make it easy for you to understand all of the information it includes. Check out our video on Reading the Food Label.
The new label has some changes because needs and priorities related to food have changed in the last 20 years. Here is a summary of some of the changes:
- The serving size is in a large, bold font and serving sizes have been updated to better reflect what people actually eat. Pay attention to the size and number of servings you eat or drink as it may be bigger or smaller than the serving size listed.
- Calories are now shown in a larger, bolder font to better display this information. The thing to remember with calories is that you may consume more or less than is listed on the label based on the size and number of servings you eat.
- Added sugars are included under total sugars to help consumers understand how much sugar has been added to the product. Some foods naturally contain sugar, like fruits and dairy. The new label helps you see how much sugar is naturally present and how much is added. Consuming too much added sugar can make it hard to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie recommendations.
- Potassium and Vitamin D are now required on the label because people need to consume more of these nutrients. Vitamins A and C are no longer required on the label, since deficiencies of these vitamins are rare today. Calcium and iron are still required on the label.
Parenting a toddler can be tough, especially when it comes to snacks and mealtimes. I remember hearing stories from my friends about their picky eaters and thought my child would be different. Boy was I wrong! Over the past few months, mealtime has become quite the challenge at my house. My toddler’s favorite foods come and go, and I have had to alter our meal planning to fit her needs during this phase.
As we focus on preventing food waste during this month’s blog series, I also wanted to focus on the idea of preventing kitchen waste. Mealtime can be extra messy with little ones and I found that I was creating a lot of kitchen waste with paper towels, snack baggies, and food containers. I decided to make a few changes in our home to address our kitchen waste, and they have made quite the difference!
- During mealtime, serve small amounts of a food first to eliminate having to throw away food. Our toddler is skeptical of new foods, and even some of our tried and true favorites. To keep it less overwhelming, we give her small amounts of each food item knowing she can ask for more. If she doesn’t like something, we either save it in a small container to try again the next day or if we do end up throwing it away, it’s only a spoonful or two.
- Invest in extra burp cloths or kitchen towels to clean up messes instead of relying on paper towels. I have lost count of how many times I have had to wipe up spilled milk or clean peanut butter slathered surfaces around my house. To eliminate extra waste, we have started to use old burp cloths and rags as our ‘paper towels’ that can be washed and reused.
- Cut down on pre-packaged snacks and invest in reusable containers. I make our own grab and go snacks with reusable bags or cups instead of plastic baggies. Instead of buying individually wrapped animal crackers and applesauce pouches, I buy those items in larger containers to cut down on the amount of plastic and cardboard in my trash. A household favorite is Popcorn Trail Mix that can be stored in a large bowl in the pantry and put into reusable containers when running errands or going to the park.
- Add in leftover days to continue introducing new foods. For my toddler, if we continue to introduce a new food, she is more likely to try it. I use the Five- Day Meal Planner and incorporate leftovers 2-3 days a week for both lunch and supper to cut down on throwing away food. Typically, by the third introduction the new food will be consumed by our skeptical eater.
Only buy certain items in bulk. Toddlers especially go through phases of loving something one week and disliking it the next. I have made the rookie mistake of overbuying a food item only to be stuck with 20 apple zucchini pouches (which I used for baking to avoid throwing them away!). Cereal is always a necessity in my house. Buying cereal and plain apple sauce in bulk works for us. Buy the items you know will be used regardless of your child’s preferences in bulk and keep other purchases smaller in scale. These are a few ideas that work for my family-if you also have a little one at home, I hope you find these tips useful. Cheers to finding ways to cut down on your own kitchen waste!
During the summer months the grill on our deck gets a lot of use. My family spends a lot of time outside in the afternoons and evenings. Using the grill gives us the chance to enjoy playing outside without having to do a lot of actual cooking. With the days getting significantly warmer, I jump at any recipe that doesn’t require me to preheat my oven!
To spice it up, I like creating simple marinades to add variety to our protein before grilling. Growing up, my family spent a lot of time grilling and I learned how to create simple marinades with very basic ingredients. The ratio I use to create my own marinades is three parts oil to one-part vinegar or lemon juice and then add a variety of seasonings or spices. Some of my favorite additions are garlic/garlic powder, Italian seasoning, dried herbs and to keep it simple, salt and pepper. You can also use bottled dressings to marinate your protein like Italian dressing or other oil-based dressings. Other family favorites at my house are the Homemade Teriyaki Sauce and the Honey Mustard Dressing recipe on Spend Smart. Eat Smart.
I have found that I get the best flavor when I marinate my protein in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to 2 hours. Meat proteins like chicken, pork and beef can soak in a marinade overnight if they are in a covered dish in the fridge. Fish is more delicate and 1 or 2 hours is plenty of marinating time. After you begin grilling, make sure you discard any leftover marinade that has been in contact with the uncooked meat because it is not safe to consume or re-use. Use clean plates and utensils after your protein is done cooking to avoid cross contamination. If you prefer meatless dishes, you can also marinate beans and tofu before cooking to add additional flavor. Pair your marinated protein with a quick side dish like Broccoli Salad or Pasta Salad to create a well-rounded summer meal! Watch this quick video on preparing honey mustard dressing as a marinade. I would love to hear your favorite summer recipes–share your go-to marinades with us! Cheers to creating your own marinades at home!
Over the weekend, I decided to make a couple of batches of dried beans to have on hand to make quick meals over the next couple of weeks. My son, Miles, took a break from his summer schedule of playing with his brother and sister to help me out. Miles and I used these Preparing Dried Beans instructions to make our beans. Watch our video below to see us in action.
Since we made two batches of beans, we used two different cooking methods. One was the slow cooker method, which I prefer. First, we sorted through our beans to remove any rocks, dirt, or bad beans (Miles is really good at this). Then we added them to our slow cooker with about 8 cups of water and cooked them on low for 7 hours. Miles and I decided to make our slow cooker beans into refried beans for supper that night, so, once they were cooked, we drained them and mashed them. After supper, I stored the leftover beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator to use in other meals later in the week.
I only have one big slow cooker, so we used the stovetop method for the other batch of beans. After sorting through our beans, we put them in a large pot, covered them with water, and put the lid on. We placed the pot on the stove and brought the water to a boil for two minutes. Then we took the beans off the heat and let them soak for a couple of hours. Soaking the beans makes them easier to digest and helps them cook more quickly. Next, we drained and rinsed the beans, covered them with fresh water and cooked them on medium on the stovetop for two hours. We put these beans into freezer bags and froze them. Now, I can grab a bag of beans out of the freezer to make our two favorite bean recipes anytime – Black Bean Burgers and Vegetable Quesadillas.
Beans are a staple in our house because everyone likes them, they can be used in many different recipes, and they fit into our budget. If you would like to learn more about beans, check out our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Pantry Picks page and click on beans. Enjoy!
The interest in growing our own produce increases daily. Everyone can garden, even apartment dwellers and those with limited outdoor space. The Sow, Grow, Eat and Keep series is helping Iowans learn to grow their own food at home. This week’s “Sow, Grow, Eat and Keep” video from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach addresses how to start a container garden to grow tasty foods at home.
Container gardens offer many benefits including:
- Requires less space than a traditional garden.
- Can be done on a porch or patio.
- Can be placed at a height that reduces bending.
There are many ways to create a container garden. You can use a variety of flower pots or larger containers, such as large plastic buckets, or build raised bed gardens. Almost any vegetable can be grown in a container garden. The best plants are those that are smaller and bushier and do not require staking. Check out the ISU Extension and Outreach publications Container Vegetable Gardening and Container Gardening FAQs.
ISU Extension and Outreach will continue hosting weekly “Sow, Grow, Eat and Keep” quickinars. The quickinars offer 5-15 minute online lessons of seasonally appropriate topics for the garden, food preparation and food preservation. Some upcoming topics include:
- Cool and warm season crops (lettuce, spinach, peas)
- Freezing produce
- Freezer jams (strawberry)
- Scouting for garden pests
- Weeding and watering basics
- Produce food safety
- Canning produce
Written by guest bloggers Ruth Litchfield and Sarah Francis. Doctors Litchfield and Francis are faculty in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.
The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team has been sharing their kitchens with you and what menu planning looks like for each of them, including tips and recipes. Unfortunately, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for many families to provide enough food due to lack of resources. This is particularly true for households with young children. In an effort to ease the burden on families, I would like to share information about a program available in your community that provides nutritious meals and snacks to children, 18 and under, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the coming summer months.
The USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was established to fill the gap when children lose access to meals when schools are closed. Most often this occurs during summer vacation. However, during school closures related to the pandemic, meals are also being made available. You have the opportunity to supplement the food you have at home with meals and snacks for your children from local schools and community organizations. In an effort to maintain social distancing, USDA has made temporary changes that allow parents or guardians to pick up meals and take them home for their children. Organizations have come up with creative ways to make these nutritious meals available in your community through grab and go curbside pickup, providing meals for multiple days at one time, and some including “take and bake” options, and weekend meals.
You can find a meal site in your area via three easy options:
- Text “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877
- Call 2-1-1, 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479), or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) (for Spanish)
- Visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids
Take the stress out of providing nutritious meals and snacks to your children by participating at a site near you! Spread the word to family, friends, and neighbors!
Stephanie Dross is a Registered Dietitian with the Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services. She coordinates the Department’s Summer Food Service Program and loves to garden and cook with her family.
This week, our blogs focus on the financial challenges COVID-19 has created for many families. Extension can help. We don’t have a magic wand, but we do have trustworthy information and planning strategies to help you consider your options and make decisions that will work for you in the long run.
Whether it’s sorting out your priorities, figuring out how to contact creditors, finding ways to stretch dollars further, or addressing some other issue, your local Human Sciences specialist in family finance can provide tools or suggest strategies that will help you make decisions with confidence. Find the specialist who serves your region and contact us by phone or email. Over the phone, by video chat, OR by email, we’ll help you find tools and resources for moving forward, even in this difficult time. Click play below to learn more.
Guest Blogger, Barb Wollan, Family Finance Specialist
This week, we welcome guest blogger Barb Wollan. Barb is a Family Finance Specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach and her blog relates to weighing priorities during times when money is tight.
As we focus on what we can control in our personal finances, the most obvious thing we control is our spending. Due to COVID 19, you may have already cut back on some of your normal expenses, like entertainment, but when money is tight, these cuts may not be enough. Choosing your top priorities is critical. Prioritizing includes considering all necessary expenses like groceries and utilities, and it often requires us to separate the things we need from the things we want. Before skipping a bill or making a partial payment, start by getting a complete picture of all your bills and debts – total monthly payments, total owed, current standing (i.e. are you currently caught up), and interest rate or fees for late payment.
The next step is to consider each bill’s importance. All bills will need to be paid eventually, and it is never desirable to leave bills unpaid or partially paid. However, in times of real financial shortfall, people sometimes have to make tough choices. So how do you choose among your many bills?
Consider what you have to lose if a bill is unpaid. Losing housing, core utilities or a vehicle is generally the greatest possible loss to a household. Therefore those payments may be top priorities for many families. By contrast, getting behind on a credit card account or medical bill payment plan may not affect your immediate well-being. Missing a payment could hurt your credit report, but you can recover from it. Due to COVID 19, some of your service providers and creditors may be offering assistance to extend your payment deadline and/or help reduce your payment obligations. In most cases, making a minimum payment is better than making no payment. Missing a payment has different consequences on your credit report. Plus, some consequences start immediately, while others may only start after a significant delay in payment. For example, some auto lenders repossess a vehicle after a single missed payment while others wait 60 days. If you take advantage of a COVID-19 payment assistance option, there are a few factors that will determine how creditors report your account to credit reporting companies, learn more about credit reporting under the CARES Act.
In addition to prioritizing among your existing bills, it is also wise to consider what bills you will or will not continue to incur. You may have ongoing monthly subscriptions to video services, cable, newspapers, program memberships or mail-order clubs. Stop and think about whether to continue them during this time. Those are often things we enjoy, and we don’t like the idea of giving them up, but if you’re worried about paying the car insurance or water bill, then it’s appropriate to include these subscriptions as you consider options. Consider your bills that have temporarily stopped, like childcare or federal student loan repayments that are suspended until September 30, 2020. How can these savings be used to pay priority bills? And don’t forget your bills on autopay, if you want more flexibility to prioritize your bills consider removing the auto payment.
If you have to miss a bill payment, check out the website of your service providers or creditor to see if they are offering greater payment flexibility. And as much as you might dread the phone call, communicating with creditors is essential if you cannot pay on time. The fact that you called and explained your situation will make a huge difference in their willingness to work with you. This is especially true if you have previously been a reliable customer. Creditors recognize the losses people are facing during this unprecedented crisis. Consider these suggestions for a conversation with a creditor:
- Be prompt – call them before your payment is due.
- Be honest with them – tell the truth without embellishment or exaggeration.
- Ask if they have a pandemic relief option, or a “hardship plan”, that would increase payment flexibility or reduce or eliminate the fees or interest that come with late payments.
- Be realistic about your options. If they ask you about when you will be able to make your next payment, give a realistic answer.
- Keep a record of what phone number you called, who you talked with, the date and time of the conversation, and what exactly was agreed.
- Monitor your credit report. The 3 national credit reporting companies are offering free weekly online credit reports through April 2021.
Need help with all this? In many communities, a non-profit credit counseling service is available to help you negotiate the process. To find a reputable credit counselor near you, check with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling; either by phone or on-line, they can do a zip code search to find the member agency nearest you.
On Thursday, Barb will share another resource available to help when making difficult financial decisions.
Like many others, my routine is a bit upside down right now. I am working from home rather than making the trip to Iowa State’s campus each day. I am sticking close to home and avoiding unnecessary trips out of the house. My days look different, but I still want to make healthy choices and enjoy tasty food. I enjoy cooking and I am using this opportunity to do it a lot. For me, planning has helped me eat well and minimize trips out for groceries.
Because I am only cooking for myself, my planning is a bit different from Jody’s, Justine’s and Katy’s. I try to keep it flexible and focus on making good use of what I have. The strategy that works best for me is to keep a running list of what I have on hand from various food groups. From that list, I can spot what recipes I have ingredients to prepare. I can also compose meals by pulling items from different food groups and improvising a bit. The list also serves as a guide for me when it is time to shop. As I use the last of any food, I cross it off and I know I need to add it to my online grocery order.
Take a look at the picture below for my current list.
In addition to keeping this ‘foods on hand’ list, I am also trying to maintain some of the habits I had when I was leaving the house every day for work. For example, I keep a container of cut up vegetables in the refrigerator, so that they are easy to grab and throw into recipes or eat as a snack. I also use my water bottle that I used to take to work to keep up with drinking enough each day.
What strategies work best for you with meal planning right now? Do you keep it flexible or prefer to have more details pinned down in advance? We would love to hear from you, so please share in the comments or on our social media.