Nutrition Facts Label Gets an Update

 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.
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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Versatile Winter Vegetable

I moved to Iowa 11 years ago and still have a difficult time appreciating Midwest winters. Although I am not a fan of the snow and brutally cold temperatures, I do look forward to transitioning my family’s meals to dishes that bring us warmth and comfort during the colder months. Many of the comforting foods that are traditional in my family in the late fall and winter are rich and heavy. To add some variety, I have begun to incorporate recipes with winter squash to add in more vegetables throughout the week. Below are a few of my favorite recipes to use winter squash. 

  • Butternut Squash Enchiladas – These enchiladas are a creative way to use winter squash. I loved making these when our daughter was just beginning to try solid foods because the mashed squash was easy for her to eat.
  • Easy Roasted Veggies – Roasting veggies does not require a lot of prep or cooking. Pick out any type of squash to roast or try a combination of a few! I love to roast squash to use as a side dish and will add leftover roasted veggies to quesadillas and quiche.
  • Autumn Soup  – I love a good soup recipe in the fall and winter! This fall inspired soup is creamy and packed with flavor.
  • Wraps “Your Way”– I love using roasted butternut squash as the veggie for these wraps. A warm wrap in the winter hits the spot! Simply add your heated squash to a tortilla with hummus and kale to create a hearty lunch.

Winter squash can seem intimidating if you haven’t prepared one before. Before working with ISU Extension and Outreach, I would walk past winter squash in the produce department because I was unsure how to cook with them. Watch this video for step by step instructions on how to prepare winter squash at home. Grab winter squash next time you pick out produce- you won’t be disappointed!

Cheers to preparing squash this winter!

Katy Moscoso

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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Split Pea Soup

I am happy to share one of my favorite recipes with you today. I have made this Split Pea Soup recipe since my husband and I were first married. Now, quite a few years later, it made its way on to Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Early on, my husband and I both drove long distances to and from work each day, so we were always very hungry and not interested in doing much cooking in the evenings. We would make Split Pea Soup on the weekend and the two of us had several weeknight meals for the following week. During that time, I enjoyed how this soup is actually even better as leftovers than it is when it is freshly made. In recent years, our commute time has decreased, giving us more time to make meals in the evenings. Now, after making this soup, I immediately divide it in half. Our family eats half of it for one or two meals and I freeze the other half for a quick meal on another night.

One thing to remember about this soup is that it thickens as it cools. This does not bother me because I enjoy thick soup; however, my husband prefers thinner soup. So, if you prefer a thinner soup like he does, you may want to add some water or broth when you reheat it.

To find the full recipe, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart. at the following link: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/split-pea-soup/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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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

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

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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Party Boards for Every Day

Have you seen those beautiful party boards that people post pictures of online? They usually have tasty cheeses, meats, crackers and fruit. Mine are not typically fancy, but I absolutely love these as an appetizer or party dish. I have not had the opportunity to throw holiday parties this year and I was really missing these foods. So, I decided to make a party board for a meal at home.

If you think about it, this is a fun and easy way to make a meal. Party boards usually involve multiple food groups and require little to no cooking. In the chart below, I shared some of my favorite things to include on party boards. How fun would it be to make a meal this week picking one item from each category?

BreadsCheesesFruitsMeatsVeggiesExtras
Crackers
Crusty
bread
Pretzels
Breadsticks
Cheddar
Pepper jack
String cheese
Cream cheese  
Apple slices
Grapes
Pear
slices
Dried fruit
Sausage
Pepperoni
Salami
Sliced
turkey
Carrot
sticks
Radishes
Pea pods
Mini
peppers  
Mustard
Pickles
Nuts
Veggie dip  

The picture above is a party board I made for dinner recently. It was delicious and allowed me to pretend that I was at a festive holiday party. If you try this out, snap a picture and share it with us on social media.

Enjoy!
Christine

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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Stuffed Pasta Shells

Happy New Year from all of us on the Spend Smart.Eat Smart. team!

To start off 2021 we have our first recipe of the month – Stuffed Pasta Shells. This is not a new recipe for us, it is an older recipe that we updated a little. This recipe can feel labor intense because you do have to fill each shell with the cheese and spinach filling. However, there are several reasons why I think this recipe is worth your time.

  1. Stuffed Pasta Shells can be made ahead of time. If you have a free half hour, you can get the shells filled and in the pan with the sauce. Cover the pan and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking and serving.
  2. This recipe makes more than one meal. My family of five gets two meals out of this recipe, especially if I serve it with salad, fruit, and garlic bread.
  3. Leftovers freeze well for quick meals later on. You can eat part of this recipe while it is hot and fresh and then freeze the rest in single serving containers for quick and easy microwave meals.
  4. This recipe feels special. I always feel fancy when I make this meal because it looks and tastes like something I would get in a restaurant.

https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/easy-stuffed-pasta-shells/

Enjoy!


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Preventing Food Waste at Jody’s House

Over the past few weeks you have heard lots of great ideas from Christine, Justine, and Katy on how they prevent food waste in their homes. As we wrap up our series today, I will share a few things we do at my house to prevent food waste.

Leftovers: In my house, we love leftovers. So each week when I do my menu planning, I include a day for leftovers. That means I don’t have to cook and we use up food before it spoils. We also like leftovers for breakfast and lunch. Leftover soup for breakfast, why not! Taking leftovers for lunch also means we save money because my husband and I aren’t going out to lunch.

Flexible Recipes: Christine mentioned using flexible recipes as one way she uses up leftover vegetables. I also like to use flexible recipes at my house. However, I like to use flexible recipes that allow my 11 year old son and 7 year old daughter to personalize the meal to their preferred taste. That way I know they are more likely to eat it and less food will be thrown away. These recipes allow children to help out in the kitchen and turn leftovers into something new:

*Instead of a large cookie crust, we like to make individual cookies. That way we each get to put on our favorite toppings. This works well to use up leftover canned, fresh, or frozen fruit.

Freezer: I use my freezer to extend how long I can keep food so that I can use it up before throwing it out. Right now my freezer has a number of ripe bananas in it that will soon be turned into bread or muffins! I also freeze leftovers if we aren’t able to eat them up within 2-3 days. Watch our video on freezing leftovers for tips on how to preserve the flavor, texture, and color of food.

I hope the tips we’ve shared during the past few weeks will be helpful for you in preventing food waste at your house.


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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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

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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The Food Waste Challenge at Justine’s Home

Two weeks ago, Christine shared the ways she reduces food waste in her home. I like the way Christine thinks of her freezer as a pantry and ensures that foods are coming out and being eaten just as often as they are going in. That is something I plan to be more purposeful about going forward. Today I am going to tell you about one of the ways I reduce food waste in my home – I call it the food waste challenge.

Over the course of a week or a month small amounts of food build up in my pantry and refrigerator that do not fit into my meal plan for the coming week. It may be a couple of tortillas, half an onion, or some tomato sauce at the bottom of a jar. This does not seem like much uneaten food at the time, but it adds up as the weeks go on. So, about every two months, I do my food waste challenge. I commit to using up this extra food for meals and snacks before I allow myself to go back to the grocery store.

I just completed a food waste challenge this week and I am proud of how it went. The main meal I made was chicken noodle soup. In the refrigerator I had a partial container of chicken broth and some vegetables that needed to be used up, in the freezer I had some chicken and a bag of frozen peas that was nearly gone, and in the pantry I had half a bag of egg noodles. The hardest meal of each day was breakfast because we did not have a lot of traditional breakfast foods left. One morning my children enjoyed a breakfast buffet that included cottage cheese, crackers, dry cereal, and applesauce.

As a final disclaimer – sometimes this challenge works and sometimes it does not. There are times when I have to go to the grocery store for some essentials to get through the week. There are also times when I have to throw food away, but I hope that it is less food than what I would have thrown out had I not challenged myself to use what I could.

Let me know if you ever do your own food waste challenge and tell me how it went.


Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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