Fruit and Veggie Staying Power

After I have spent time and money buying groceries, the last thing I want to happen is food going in the trash. I try my best to prevent it through planning meals and snacks that I know will lead to all of my perishable food getting used before it spoils. Even with a solid meal plan for the week, it is important to store fruits and vegetables in the best way to maximize their shelf life. Here are some tips to avoid the dreaded fuzzy fruit or slimy lettuce in your fridge!

  1. Store all cut or peeled fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator. Prioritize eating these soon after they are cut.
  2. Mix up your fruit and veggie forms. Frozen and canned vegetables are healthy choices that fit well into many meals. When choosing canned fruits, choose items that are not canned in heavy syrup, which adds a lot of sugar to the fruit. Many canned vegetables are now available in reduced sodium varieties as well.
  3. Store food in the right place. Some go straight to the fridge; some need time on the counter before refrigeration and some can be stored at room temperature for multiple weeks. This one-page document outlines where different types of fruits and veggies should be stored. 
  4. There are products like bags and containers on the market that claim to extend produce shelf life. You may choose to use these, but the tips above will go a long way to preventing fruit and veggie waste without having to buy anything special.

Enjoy making half your plate fruits and veggies without wasting food or money!

Christine Hradek

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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Stress-Free Halloween

You were expecting us to blog about handing out pencils instead of candy, right? Though non-candy treats are a way to celebrate the holiday without loading up on sugar, most kids don’t get very excited about that approach and we want happy kids on Halloween. Celebrating with some candy is fun for all ages. 

Since we all know the piles of candy are coming, here are a few ideas for dealing with them in a healthy way.

  1. Eat a healthy and hearty meal before you head out to trick-or-treat. Children will be less likely to overdo it on candy if their tummies are full. Since the evening will be busy, consider a slow-cooker meal that you can put on early in the day like our Slow Cooker Pork Chili.
  2. Some experts think that strictly limiting candy at Halloween makes children even more fanatical about it. Consider allowing children to eat what they want on Halloween night and then set limits that make sense for your family going forward.
  3. Talk with your child about a plan for all of the candy before they get it. Consider allowing a piece or two every night after they eat supper over the course of a week. If they know the expectations in advance, they may be more likely to cooperate. 
  4. Though we generally avoid wasting food whenever we can, candy is a little different. If your child brings home pounds of candy, it is OK to have them choose the ones they like best, eat them over the course of a week or so and toss the others. 

Happy Halloween from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team! Enjoy your candy!

Bowl of halloween candy
Christine Hradek

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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October recipes you will love

By Kathryn Standing

ISU Student, Dietetics & Psychology 

It’s October, the air is crisp and football is in full swing. This time of year finds me craving warm and comforting food while I cheer on Iowa State. The fall line-up of vegetables includes squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Squash and pumpkin can be intimidating. Not everyone is used to dealing with these hard vegetables with inedible skins, unless they’re carving one for Halloween of course! I recommend this how-to for squash and pumpkin to get you started:  

How to Prepare Winter Squash This is an easy and quick way to cook squash and pumpkin. After cooking you can then use the squash and pumpkin in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin (pies, cakes, soups, etc.). 

Note: sweet potato also makes a great substitute for canned pumpkin.  

Consider adding the recipes below to your fall cooking line-up!

For warm and comforting dinners:

Squash

Butternut Squash Enchiladas A fun and creative take on enchiladas. Use corn tortillas for a delicious and nutritious gluten free dinner. 

Autumn Soup You can’t have fall without it. Apples add a nice sweetness to this creamy soup. 

Sweet Potato, Squash, or Cauliflower

Easy Roasted Veggies This versatile recipe does a nice job bringing out the natural sweetness of rich fall veggies.

Sweet Potato

Mashed Sweet Potatoes Three ingredients yield a whole lot of yum in this easy side dish. 

For pumpkin spice lovers:

Pumpkin

Pumpkin Apple Cake Add nuts if you want or substitute chocolate cake mix if you prefer.  This easy cake is great with coffee. 

Pumpkin Pudding A great recipe to make with kids. Dip graham crackers or apples as a fun treat.

Bowl of pumpkin pudding

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True Stories from the School Cafeteria

The past couple of weeks our blogs have focused on breakfast. Today, I’m going to change it up and talk about lunch. School lunch to be more specific. A couple of weeks ago I ate school lunch with my daughter who is in kindergarten. It was the week of her birthday and she was so excited to have me come.

school lunch tray of food

At the school my kids attend, they get to choose between three entrée options, one option is always a simple sandwich. The day I visited, the other two options were a yogurt parfait or chicken tenders. As you can see in the picture, I chose the chicken tenders. Along with those I had baked beans, a roll, apple slices, broccoli salad, and milk. Another option was applesauce. Overall, I thought the food was good. It just so happens that on the day I planned to visit, my daughter begged me to take lunch from home. I don’t think it was that she didn’t like the chicken tenders as much as it seems that taking your lunch is a ‘cool’ thing to do in kindergarten as there were a number of kids who had brought their lunch.

I generally have my kids eat school lunch because:

  1. I think the school lunch provides them with a balanced meal. They don’t often choose the vegetable option but do they get the fruit, grain, protein, and dairy groups. 
  2. It allows them to try new things. They might not take new things every day but I do think they try things at school that they might not try for me at home. 
  3. The cost of the meal is reasonable for what they get, including fruits and vegetables. And for families who have limited budgets, free and reduced price meals are available.  For more information on reduced price meals, contact your child’s school.

If you have the opportunity to eat school lunch with a child, I encourage you to do so. They will enjoy having you come!

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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Avocado

Now that summer is in full swing and lots of fruits and vegetables are in season, we will be sharing some new produce videos we’ve created. Today I’m sharing with you our video on how to prepare an avocado.

My husband and I both really like avocado and more specifically, guacamole. Sometimes my husband just happens to buy avocados, even if they aren’t on the grocery list, hoping I will make guacamole. I also put avocado in wraps, in a dip like Cowboy Caviar, or in fajitas. If I use the avocados to make guacamole, then after I get them peeled, I mash them up with a fork instead of slicing them. Sometimes I like my dips to be chunky, so I dice the avocado instead of mash it.

If you’d like to start using more avocado but you are not sure how to choose one in the store, check out our Produce Basics.

Next week Christine will share with you our video on cauliflower.

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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Summer is a time for Food, Friends, and Fun – Find a Summer Meal site near you!

Summer break is almost here!  While learning does not end when school lets out, neither does the need for good nutrition.  Children who are well nourished in the summer return to school ready to learn in the fall. The USDA Summer Food Service Program, administered by the Iowa Department of Education and sponsored by local schools, cities, and community organizations, provides free meals to children when school is out.  

Over 500 summer meal sites, also known as Summer Meal MeetUps, will operate across Iowa from June through August.  All kids and teens, ages 18 and younger, can receive a meal for free, no identification or sign-in is required. In addition to a meal, many sites will offer fun learning and recreational activities, so kids stay active and spend time with friends.  

Plan for a nutritious summer today!  You can find a summer meal site near you, including in Iowa and in states across the US, using one of the methods below.  Meals, days and times vary by location, so check your local site for availability. Spread the word to family, friends, and neighbors!

Summer is a time for food, friends, and fun!  Take the stress out of providing nutritious meals in the summer months by participating at a site near you!  See you this summer!

Written by Stephanie Dross, Iowa Department of Education

Work Out at Home with our New Videos

Last week on the blog I shared about our new Move tab on the website which includes two At-home Workout videos. One of the main reasons people say they aren’t physically active is because of a lack of time. Our new videos are less than 20 minutes long and can be done in the comfort of your home. I am your workout leader and my friends Shannon, Katy and Justine join in along the way. I promise you will have some fun as you get moving along with us.

The first video is a Cardio Interval workout that helps you meet the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week. The workout is 14 minutes long and is a tabata style workout. That means you do 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. There are five different moves and each move is repeated four times. Lower impact versions of each exercise are also shown in the videos so you can modify the workout to meet your needs.

The second video is a Beginner Strength Training video that takes you through a series of exercises to work each muscle group. All you need is a pair of dumbbells. If you don’t have dumbbells you can also use water bottles or cans of food. Each exercise is done 12 times and modifications for each exercise are also shown.

If you are looking to be more active or find new exercises to try, these videos are for you! You can also find the videos on our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app.

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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I Like to Move it Move it!

Today I’m excited to share with you a new feature that was added to our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website! We added a section on physical activity. For good health its important to eat well and move our bodies. Now you can find information about both on our website.

The new section includes two short workout videos, information on the benefits of physical activity, and how much is recommended. There is also an Activity Planner that can help you plan your activity for the week.

Be sure to check out the new Move tab on the website!

Next week I’ll share more about the two workout videos.

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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Solid fats and oils: What’s the difference?

Back in 2013, I wrote a blog comparing the cost and nutrition of different vegetable oils. That blog was recently shared by a national outlet and it received a lot of attention. As a result, we got a lot of questions related to what type of fat or oil is best to use so we thought it was time to write another blog on that topic.

When talking about fats and oils, it helps to define each term. Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature like butter or lard. Solid fats mainly come from animal foods. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like canola or olive oil. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. However, coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils (tropical oils) are solid at room temperature because they have high amounts of saturated fatty acids. Therefore, they are classified as a solid fat rather than as an oil.

All fats and oils are a mixture of saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Solid fats contain more saturated fats and/or trans fats than oils. Saturated fats and trans fats tend to raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease. Here is a chart that shows the different amounts of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids in different types of solid fats and oils.

*Information from the USDA National Nutrient Database https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list?home=true

There has been some research lately that has led some people to believe that saturated fats aren’t as harmful as once thought. Along with that, coconut oil is widely promoted as having many health benefits. However, in July 2017 the American Heart Association issued an advisory recommending against using coconut oil. Analysis of more than 100 published research studies reaffirmed that saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol. In addition, seven controlled trials showed that coconut oil raised LDL levels.

To learn how much oil is recommended for you, visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/oils. Currently, most Americans eat more solid fat than recommended while consuming fewer oils than recommended. Therefore, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend shifting from solid fats to oils. This includes using oils (except tropical oils like coconut oil) in place of solid fats when cooking. And to increase the intake of foods that naturally contain oils, such as seafood and nuts, in place of some meat and poultry. This week for an evening meal you might consider making the Broiled Salmon Justine shared at the beginning of the month!

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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