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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Use a Chair to Move your Body…What?

You probably don’t think about grabbing a chair when wanting to move your body, but with our Chair Workout video, you do just that. With this video you can strengthen muscles and add activity to your day with just a chair and your body – and in less than 10 minutes!

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults do muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week. Strengthening our muscles is important for everyone. As we age, if we don’t use our muscles, they get weaker and we are less able to do normal daily activities. Many people are hesitant to do muscle-strengthening activities because they don’t know what to do. The Chair Workout is easy to follow and doable for a wide range of abilities. So grab a sturdy chair, that doesn’t move, and give it a try!

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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Activity Snacks

Have you ever heard of activity snacks? These are like food snacks, but in physical activity form! Sometimes I dread going to start a workout- whether that be at the gym or at home, I do not want to put in a chunk of time to move. Days can become busy, but I often feel discouraged and defeated when I feel I did not get enough movement in. This is where activity snacks can fit in your everyday.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should move more and sit less getting in 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity each week. This is about 22 to 43 minutes of activity per day.

This can be a great goal to accomplish through activity snacks. This is when you dedicate 5 to 15 minutes 3 times a day to be active whether that be in your living room, at your desk, or in-between meetings. This totals 15 to 45 minutes of your day dedicated to movement without the burden of setting up a huge space of your time for the gym.

It is as simple as waking up and doing morning stretches, pushing through a chair workout over lunch hour, and going for an evening walk. Every little thing adds up to big numbers at the end of the day.

Check out some activity videos we have on our website for some easy activities to work into your day! All you need is your body and a chair- perfect for your busy life.

Ideas for movement:

Hello! I am Brianna Montross, currently a graduate student and dietetic intern at Iowa State University. Some of my favorite things to do are write poetry, run, and find new ways to incorporate veggies in my cooking.

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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Perspective is Key

Energy is contagious! Have you ever been around a person who has nothing nice to say? How did that make you feel? If the answer is negative, then that makes sense. Out of a negative perspective, you can only see bad things. On the other hand, have you ever been around someone who is full of life and kindness? How did that make you feel? I have a feeling the answer is positive.

Sometimes I get in the slump of thinking, Why me? I had to prepare for my own wedding last July in the middle of a crisis, graduate from school with no ceremony, and had my honeymoon cancelled in December. I had bad day after bad day, and then I remembered- responding to my self-talk is how I set the tone for how I respond to everyone around me.

I understand- this past year has been anything but ordinary. Not only are we still in a pandemic, but there are lots of things to do like pay bills, make dinner, and honestly- just do life. We cannot change things around us like the pandemic, economy, or other people, but we can change our mindset toward situations that come about our day. Try to remember that only you are in control of how you view the world, and you can impact those around you. One simple mind-shift can create a positive atmosphere not only your family will like being around, but your brain as well.

4 easy tips for changing your perspective:

  • Take time to reflect on your blessings by keeping a journal and writing 3 blessings in your life every morning to start your day off in a positive tone.
  • For every 1 negative thing you say, practice saying 2 positive things about that topic.
  • Acknowledge your stress and listen to your body. It is important to take a break when your body needs it so you can be at your best mindset moving forward. Check out our Strength in Stress blog post on some ways to recognize stress.
  • Know how to recognize and respond to your negative self-talk. For more on how to do that within your family, check out The Science of Parenting. In their recent podcast, Talk it Up, Mackenzie and Lori break down self-talk as a parent.

Hello! I am Brianna Montross, currently a graduate student and dietetic intern at Iowa State University. Some of my favorite things to do are write poetry, run, and find new ways to incorporate veggies in my cooking.

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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New Videos for At-Home Workouts on Frigid Days

As I write this blog, snow is swirling in the air and it is cold outside. Like really cold. As much as my kids and I enjoy sledding and being active outdoors, it’s not possible right now, since it is recommended to limit your time outside. This also means my kids are having indoor recess at school which usually isn’t very active. Therefore, I’m thinking of different ways we can be active inside our house.

This past week we’ve been doing different workout videos after school. We’ve done a couple that they do in school. And I also introduced them to the new stretching and workout videos we have on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. We have four new videos: Chair workout, Upper Body Stretches, Cardio Pyramid Exercises, and Chair Stretches. My 11 year old son and I did the Cardio Pyramid together. He thought it was pretty fun watching mom on the video! The videos are short so they work well when you need to add a little movement to your day or when you are short on time. And you don’t need a lot of space to do them.

If, like my family, you need to find ways to be active indoors, check out the new videos and let us know what you think.

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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Staying Active in the Winter

We are in the thick of winter here in Iowa and it’s not always easy to get enough physical activity. In the summertime there are options but many of those options disappear when the temperature drops, and the days get shorter. It is recommended to exercise at a moderate level for at least 150 minutes every week. If you need some inspiration to raise your activity levels in the winter, don’t worry, we have some ideas!

  • If you have ever shoveled snow, you know how tiring it is. It uses many muscles for an extended period of time. Take advantage of the next snowfall by shoveling your driveway/sidewalk and offering to shovel for your neighbors too! Remember to take breaks to warm up and get a drink of water.
  • Play in the snow with the family. Get the whole family active outdoors by going sledding, having a snowball fight, or building a snow family!
  • Scope out the parks and trails in your area, put on a coat and boots, and go on a winter walk/hike. Make sure you are dressed warmly, stay on marked paths, and watch for ice.
  • Try some living room workouts- there are many apps you can download onto your phone that will get your heart rate up with strength exercises or cardio. There are two At-Home Workouts on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. Give them a try!
  • Start spring cleaning a few months early! Choose a project that is not included in your normal cleaning routine like dusting all of the baseboards or tackling something that needs to be scrubbed down like a shower or tile. 

Just because the nice weather is gone doesn’t mean your physical activity has to go with it. Get creative and get active with the whole family!

Written by Stefanie Jensen, ISU Dietetic Intern

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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Skip Disposable when Reusable will do

Disposable and single-use items bring a lot of convenience to our lives. We can skip washing something and throw it away instead. There is no doubt that these items make some things easier for a busy household but they also generate a lot of trash. Two years ago I set a resolution to reduce my use of single-use disposable items. I was particularly interested in reducing my use of zip-top plastic bags. I wanted to see if I could change these habits to save some money and reduce the amount of trash I generate.

I started by looking for an alternative to zip-top bags. I bought some small washable fabric bags that have velcro at the top to use for dry goods like crackers or nuts for my lunch. I also bought some extra glass and plastic storage containers that I can wash and reuse. When I have a piece of an onion or half a cucumber to store, I put them in a container now rather than putting them in a plastic bag.

My new bags were $3 apiece and I have five of them, so they cost me a total of $15. My container set with a variety of sizes cost about $20. So, I invested $35 in this resolution. When I did the math, I was spending about $4 per month, or $48 per year, on plastic zip top bags. So, in that first year, I saved enough money to offset my investment in reusable containers. The good news is that I am still using all of the same reusable items two years in to my resolution, so my savings are adding up now and I feel good about the fact that I throw less plastic into the trash.

I do find that I need to use disposable plastic bags sometimes. For example, when I need to store something like meat in the freezer I will use a plastic freezer bag. This resolution taught me that it was not really that difficult for me to give up some of the convenience items I have always used. Has your family switched from a single-use product to a reusable one? How did it go? Share with us in the comments or on our social media.

Take care,

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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Preventing Food Waste with a Toddler

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

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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Cleaning and Disinfecting

Flu season starts in the fall, and this year, the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting new challenges for cleaning and disinfecting the inside of a home. Cleaning refers to reducing the number of germs, dirt and impurities on the surface.  It doesn’t kill the germs, but lowers the number of germs and the risk of infection.  Disinfecting refers to killing germs on surfaces by using an EPA-registered disinfectant.  Best practice to prevent COVID-19 and other viruses is to clean the surface first and then follow up with a disinfectant.   

Cleaning and disinfecting frequent contact hard surfaces in the kitchen, dining room and bathrooms have become routine. Additional cleaning of surfaces, like doorknobs, faucets, cabinets, and play areas is a sensible precaution against the spread of disease between household members and guests. A list of disinfectant products that are EPA-approved for use against the COVID-19 virus is available here. In addition to cleaning surfaces, washing your hands frequently is an excellent tool to prevent illness. When you do not have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It is good practice to wash hands well, for at least twenty seconds, every time you come in the house.

In particular, COVID-19 challenges homeowners and hosts to prevent the spread of disease when having guests for fall or winter celebrations or conducting business in a home. The safest approach is to celebrate with those who live in your household and connect with others virtually. If you will have guests visit your home, below are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of spreading illness.

  • Have guests wash or sanitize hands frequently. Make hand sanitizer available.
  • Wear face coverings when possible.
  • Offer paper towels for drying hands after washing.
  • Use disposable plates and glasses to prevent multiple people handling dishes.
  • Have one person prepare and distribute food. This will result in fewer people having contact with the food.
  • Open doors and windows for better airflow when the temperatures allow.

Stay well and healthy this winter.

Written by Holly Van Heel, Human Sciences Specialists-Nutrition and Wellness

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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Stress Management Resource Round-up

Our blog team was inspired to focus on stress over the last few weeks because we see how uniquely stressful our current circumstances are for ourselves as well as our colleagues, friends and family. Many of us are balancing more than we are used to and living in a way that feels very different and perhaps even insecure. For the past few weeks we have had experts share how stress affects us and tips for managing that stress. Today’s blog is a round-up of resources that have been shared and can help us deal with this stressful time. We hope that one or more of these resource will be helpful to you.

  • Iowa Concern hotline has stress counselors that can talk with you over the phone or in one-on-one live chat.
  • COVID Recovery Iowa provides counseling, virtual activities, referrals and help finding resources to any Iowan seeking assistance or a listening ear.
  • Spend Smart. Eat Smart. meal planner and recipes can help keep you and your family nourished during this stressful time.
  • Stop. Breathe. Talk. can help you and your kids manage your emotions during stressful times and communicate effectively with each other.

Remember to take time to care for your mental and physical health during this difficult time.

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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