Spot the Sneaky Sodium

With the start of a new year many people set goals for the year ahead. And often the goals are related to health. One goal that would benefit many of us is to reduce our sodium intake. Americans eat on average about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day. Diets higher in sodium are linked to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, which is a major cause of stroke and heart disease.

The recommendation of 2300 mg of sodium or less per day is equal to about 1 teaspoon of table salt. However, most of the sodium we eat comes from packaged foods rather than salt we add to food when we are cooking. The Nutrition Facts label is key to knowing how much sodium is in packaged foods. Here are some tips for reading the label:

  • Pay attention to the serving size and the number of servings you eat or drink. The amount of sodium listed on the label is for one serving and a food package may contain many servings.
  • Use % Daily Value (DV) to see if a serving of food is high or low in sodium.  A general guide is that 5% DV or less per serving is considered low and 20% DV or more per serving is high. Compare labels when possible and choose options with lower amounts of sodium. If you choose a food with 20% DV or more, balance that with lower sodium choices throughout the rest of the day.

In addition, check out our video Sodium on the Food Label!


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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Jody’s Food Memories

With only a few more days left in December, today I’m wrapping up our series sharing our food memories.

When I think of the holidays, a food that comes to mind is the jello that my mom makes for our Christmas dinner. Though the other food we have at Christmas changes year to year, the jello is a staple on the table. And it was this past Christmas too!

The bottom layer of the salad is yellow and is a mixture of crushed pineapple, whipped cream, and cream cheese. The second layer is green jello and the third layer is red jello. Every year my mom makes the salad in the same glass bowl so you can see the different colored layers. The glass bowl is as much a part of the tradition as the jello. The color of the salad brightens up the table and adds some holiday cheer!

What salads or side dishes are part of your holiday meals? Share with us on our Facebook page.


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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It’s Monkey Bread Time of the Year

As far back as I can remember, food has been an integral part of my family’s holiday traditions. If you asked me what my mom would serve on a specific holiday, I could recite entire menus that I have carried into my own holiday traditions as an adult. There is something special about being able to make the same recipes that so vividly stick out to me from my childhood that made holidays extra special. A favorite dish at our house for Christmas is called ‘sticky buns’, commonly known as monkey bread.

Christmas Eve growing up was the same year to year. After returning home from our Christmas Eve church service, my sisters and I would get ready for bed and our mom would head to the kitchen, still in her church dress and tights, prepping for Christmas day breakfast. Sticky buns, or monkey bread, would have to sit overnight on the counter for the rolls to rise prior to baking the next morning. As I got older, I remember hanging out in the kitchen with my mom the evening of Christmas Eve to help measure the ingredients and rearrange the frozen dough balls in the Bundt pan. On Christmas morning, we would wake up to the smell of cinnamon and butterscotch flowing throughout the house.

As the years have gone on and I have begun making this same dish for my family, I have tweaked it a little and added chocolate chips or butterscotch chips to the pan for extra sweetness. Making monkey bread for Christmas day helps me feel connected to my family even though we are separated by 1,000+ miles for the holidays. Our new tradition is to send completed pictures of our sticky buns/monkey bread to one another to see how the dish has evolved over the years. My husband looks forward to Christmas breakfast, mainly because of my family’s infamous breakfast tradition. I envision my daughter, who recently turned 3, helping me in the kitchen after Christmas Eve church service this year to help me prep our monkey bread.

What dishes or scents bring about happy memories for you around the holidays? Please share your family favorite dishes with us!

Cheers to making your family favorite dishes during this holiday season!

Katy

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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Christine’s Food Memories

This month we are kicking off a new Spend Smart. Eat Smart. series celebrating food memories. Food is so much more than fuel for our bodies. It has ties to our families, traditions and cultures and is a source of pleasure in our lives. This month you will hear from me, Katy and Jody on some of our strongest food memories.

The memory I would like to share is not tied to a fancy meal. It’s actually very simple. On my mom’s side of our family, we have always had a seasoned nut and cereal mix around Thanksgiving and Christmas. We call it scrabble. When I was a child, my Grandma Betty would make it and the smell of the garlic and Worcestershire sauce would permeate her whole house throughout the season. She would have huge popcorn tins full of it so that the small bowls around her house could be refilled anytime.

Now I make scrabble for these holidays and though our family skips the nuts due to allergies, it is otherwise pretty much the same. I even have the wooden paddle Grandma Betty used to stir it when she made it. As soon as I mix it up and put it in the oven, it feels like the holidays are here. I think this is a great example of how strong the memories tied to food are. There is a Baby Betty in our family’s youngest generation and we may just have to teach her how to make scrabble.

Will you let us know some of the foods that inspire strong memories for you on our Facebook page? We would love to hear your stories.

Happy Holidays!
Christine

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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You’re the Chip to my Dip

I love it when I can make a meal out of a bunch of snacks. The trend of creating party boards with a variety of crackers, veggies, cheeses and dips is right up my alley. If you like this style of eating as much as I do, consider making your own pita chips for a fun, homemade addition. They are simple to make and they hold up really well to hearty dips and spreads. Don’t you hate it when your chip or cracker breaks into a million pieces in the dip! Try them with this month’s recipe, Baba Ganoush. They also pair well with Tzatziki, or Cowboy Caviar.

You can find our recipe for Homemade Pita Chips within our recipe for Tzatziki. When you make them yourself, you can choose your favorite type of pita to use. You can even use the pita bread from your favorite Mediterranean restaurant. I like whole wheat pita bread. You will need to separate your pita bread into halves and then cut it into triangles. Spray or brush with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning and bake. Usually one side of pita bread is thicker than the other, so when you bake them, the thin ones will need less cooking time than the thick ones. Putting them on two separate pans or in two batches will help with this.  

Whether you have a tailgate coming up or just a fun night at home, give these a try!

Enjoy!
Christine

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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Jody’s Garden Update- How Did the Garden Grow?

Three months ago I shared that my son was interested in having a garden and we decided to do container gardening on our deck and grow tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce. Our neighbors also gave us a pot with a strawberry plant in it. Well how did the garden grow? Really well! My son helped with the planting and both my son and daughter helped me water it so it has been a fun group endeavor. We all enjoy checking on the plants each morning to see what new things have grown. We’ve gotten a number of peppers and tomatoes and we’ve harvested our lettuce 6 times!

We’ve used our produce on Lentil Tacos, for bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, on hamburgers, in salads, and to make fresh salsa.

I wasn’t sure how things were going to go since the first time I tried container gardening it didn’t go so well. This goes to show that even though something might not work the first time you try, don’t give up. Use the lessons you learned from past experiences and try again.

Next week Justine will share her gardening update. What do you think Justine and her kids decided to grow in their garden?

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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Crunchy Coleslaw

Our August recipe of the month is Crunchy Coleslaw. This refreshing recipe is one of my favorites. It keeps in the refrigerator for up to four days, but I eat it for any meal or snack so it is usually gone in a day or two. To make this recipe, you break apart a package of dry ramen noodles and add them to a bowl with coleslaw mix, green onions, and a homemade dressing. This recipe is best if you let it marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving.

Reading about the progress in Christine and Katy’s gardens has me thinking about using fresh cabbage for this recipe instead of a bag of coleslaw. I rarely use fresh cabbage, so I looked it up on our Produce Basics. To use a fresh cabbage for this recipe, all I need to do is remove any wilted outer leaves, wash it, cut out the core, and chop it into thin strips. If I spy a cabbage at the farmers market, I think I will give it a try.

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/crunchy-coleslaw/

Enjoy!


Justine Hoover

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

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Enjoying the Fruits of Labor

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the neighborhood garden that my family contributes to during the spring and summer. My husband and I do not have green thumbs, so we have enjoyed participating in a neighborhood garden that our neighbor, Jen, has created in her backyard to share with a few of us who live nearby.

This summer has been tough on our neighbor’s garden. She has had to fend off several hungry pests over the past few months and has dealt with drought making it difficult to produce as much as she has in years past. Although the garden was off to a slower start, she has been able to share beans, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, hot peppers, and a few tomatoes. In the next month or so, we are hopeful to see purple and blue potatoes, butternut squash, bell peppers, carrots, and additional greens like chard, spinach, and lettuce. Here is a picture of my toddler, Brynn, with the tomato plant that she helped with in May. Somehow, she has developed a green thumb and her tomato plant is the biggest one in Jen’s garden!

I love using my neighbor’s produce in my recipes. There is something to be said about the taste of a fresh grown vegetable compared to purchasing one from our local grocery store. A few of my favorite recipes that I have made so far this summer include making Whole Wheat Pizza Dough with hot peppers and tomatoes, as well as Vegetable Quesadillas and Zucchini Hummus Wraps with zucchini and eggplant. I also make the Vegetable Dip to enjoy with cut up veggies for a quick and easy snack.

I am looking forward to enjoying the other produce that will be grown in our neighbor’s garden over the next few months. Now that Brynn is learning the ins and outs of gardening from our neighbor, maybe we will attempt our own garden next spring!

Cheers to enjoying the fruits of labor!

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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Update from Christine – Herb Gardening in Small Spaces

Back in May, I wrote a blog related to how I like to grow herbs at my house. I do not have a good space in my yard to dig up a garden, so I use containers instead. Herbs are a great food to start out with if you are new to gardening. They grow very well in Iowa summers and take up a small amount of space. Not to mention, fresh herbs are quite expensive at the grocery store and can spoil quickly. Growing them at home gives you the pleasure of fresh herbs for far less money.

Here is a picture of how my herbs look about seven weeks after planting. They have all grown up quite a lot. I use the thyme and rosemary once or twice per week. I tend to use them to season chicken before I grill it or vegetables before I roast them. I use the basil almost every day because I love basil with cottage cheese and chopped tomatoes. I also like to clip a few stems of each and put them in a jar on my kitchen counter just because they smell so nice. Even with frequent use, the plants are still very large.

I had to make one change back in the spring. After a couple of weeks of growth, it was clear that my planter was too crowded, so I removed the parsley plant gently and put it in a flowerpot by itself. That gave all of the plants enough room to grow well.

How are your food plants doing? Have you tried anything that is new to you this year?

Happy gardening!
Christine

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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What do I Grow?

“What do I grow?” That is a question I ask myself every year when I start thinking about my garden. And the answer is different every year. In my previous home, my garden was much larger, so I had a lot more options. Over the 11 years I worked in that garden, I planted lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, corn, broccoli, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, squash, peas, green beans, potatoes, and flowers. No two years were the same.

Now I live in a home with more shade trees, so my garden is smaller. This will be my third year of deciding what to plant here. Since space is tight, I have to be more selective about what I plant. So, I do three things when deciding what to grow.

  1. I take into account my family’s preferences. I have learned over the years that my family prefers peppers fresh out of the garden, but they prefer it if I make the tomatoes into juice and freeze it for soups and sauces in the winter. This tells me I need to plant several different types of peppers, but I only need to plant tomatoes that are good for freezing.
  2. I ask my children what they would like to plant. I always let my children pick a packet of seeds they want to plant because it makes them more interested in the garden. They do a better job of pulling the weeds when they are motivated to see their little seeds grow into big plants. Some years their choices work out and some years they don’t, and that is ok.
  3. I consider my space. After I have thought about my family’s preferences and found out what my children want to plant, I consider how much space I have left. With my extra space, I may try something new or I may plant something just for me. Last summer I planted a beautiful yellow zucchini plant that was just for me.

Later this summer, when I start to harvest my garden, I will give you an update on my choices for this year.

Justine Hoover

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

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