Label Claims: What they Mean

Various labels and health claims cover food packaging these days. Some labels and health claims are regulated by the FDA, while others are simply advertising. Deciphering labels can be confusing and the laws and regulations behind them are even more confusing. After completing a course in Food Law this summer I thought I would try to simplify and clear up some confusion about “organic” versus “natural” labeled products.

Organic:USDA logo postit

Definition:“foods that are grown and processed with minimal synthetic materials”

Regulated by the USDA. There are regulated synthetic substances that may be used as well as  nonsynthetic substances that cannot be used in the production of “organic” products.

100% Organic: In order for a product to be labeled “100% organic” it must be grown and handed in an establishment that has been certified by the National Organic Program.

Made with organic ingredients: For a product to be labeled as “made with organic ingredients” it must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients.

Only certain ingredients produced organically: May not display the USDA seal shown below, but may identify individual ingredients that were produced organically. For example, “ Made with organic carrots.”

Natural:

Definition: By law, there is not one! This label is not regulated.
There are no limitations to using the term “natural” if the food “does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances”.

Understanding what these labels mean can help you be a savvy shopper and avoid getting tricked by misleading labels. The most important thing is to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein. It is a personal choice whether eating organic is important to you. Keep in mind that there are many foods that are high in fat, sodium and sugar that are also certified organic. Reading the nutrition facts label is the only way to really know how healthy a food is for you and your family.

 organic quiz 2

Click here to go to our facebook page for the answers!

Guest Blogger,

Elizabeth Breuer

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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Banana Pudding Parfait

PERFECT FOR KIDS TO MAKE

Our featured recipe this month is a perfect one to get your kids involved in the kitchen. Kids enjoy helping in the kitchen and are often more willing to eat foods they help prepare. Plan ways the children in your care can help you. Be sure to consider the age of the child. For this recipe kids can:

banana pudding

  • Wash their hands (do this before starting any cooking).
  • Crush the graham crackers up by putting them in a seal-able plastic bag and rolling the side of a glass over them.
  • Peel and cut up the bananas.
  • Measure and pour the milk.
  • Stir the pudding.
  • Layer the pudding, crushed graham crackers, and bananas.
  • And clean up the dishes.

After you make this recipe with your kids, let them experiment with other pudding flavors and fruit.  If they want to take it for lunch or a picnic make it in small plastic containers with lids.  Keep cold with ice packs.

Check out these resource for additional ideas …

Peggy Signature

 

Banana Pudding Parfait

Serving Size: ¾ cup | Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 package (0.8 ounce) sugar-free instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 cups cold nonfat milk
  • Banana Pudding Parfait Label4 graham crackers, crumbled (12 tablespoons or ¾ cup crumbs)
  • 2 bananas, sliced

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl combine pudding mix and 2 cups of milk. Beat until well blended (about 2 minutes) with a wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer at lowest speed.
  2. Let set for 5 minutes.
  3. Set out 6 glasses.
  4. Put about 3 tablespoons of pudding in the bottom of each glass.
  5. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of graham cracker crumbs on the pudding in each cup.
  6. Layer ¼ of the banana slices on crumbs.
  7. Repeat with layers of pudding, graham crackers, and banana slices.
  8. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Creamy Cauliflower Salad—Lots of Flavor, Few Calories

CreamyCauliflowerI have to admit I was skeptical when I first tried this recipe. I could not imagine cauliflower, apples, and lettuce together. Now I am a believer. The fresh, mild taste of the crunchy cauliflower, the sweet, tart flavor of the apple, and the ranch dressing are great together.

If you haven’t  chopped up a cauliflower before, you’ll be surprised how easy it is.

This salad is great for an everyday meal, a picnic, or for company. You can make it several hours ahead of time and the leftovers are good, although the lettuce is a little wilted the next day.

To make the salad more special sometimes I add sunflower seeds or raisins, use red onions for color, as well as romaine lettuce for color and more nutrition.

Creamy Cauliflower Salad

Serving Size: 3/4 cup
Serves: 6

Cost Per Serving: $.61

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups cauliflower broken into florets (about 1/2 head)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups chopped lettuce (romaine works well)
  • 1 chopped red or green apple (Braeburn, Granny Smith)
  • 1/4 cup light ranch dressing

Instructions:
  1. Prepare the cauliflower by rinsing well in cold water just before using it. Snap off the outer leaves and discard.
  2. Use a sharp knife and cutting board to slice off stem and hollow out and remove core.
  3. Cut or break cauliflower into small pieces called florets.
  4. Toss cauliflower, onion, lettuce, and apples in a medium bowl.
  5. Stir in dressing.
  6. Cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Substitutions/Additions:
  • Change this recipe by adding other foods such as sunflower seeds or raisins.
  • Use red onion to add more color.
Tips:
  • Can be made several hours in advance.
  • Great for a picnic. Keep it in the cooler until time to eat.

 

Peggy Signature

Try Canned Salmon in Wraps

salmon Wrap with noteI can’t remember ever having salmon when I was a kid. The only canned fish we ate was tuna. As an adult I love to order grilled salmon, but I was not familiar with canned salmon until a couple of years ago. I started actively trying to get fish into my diet a couple of times a week, as advised by the 2010  Dietary Guidelines for Americans to increase my intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and discovered canned salmon in the process.

 

Here are a few things about salmon I have learned:

  • Generally, the redder the salmon the more expensive it is and the more fat it contains.
  • Pink and chum salmon are your best buy.
  • Canned salmon comes in a variety of sizes: the tall, 15½-ounce can contains about 2 cups; the 7¾-ounce can contains 1 cup; the 3¾-ounce can contains about ½ cup.
  • Canned salmon contains high-quality protein. It has a higher fat content than  white fish, but 3½ ounces of canned salmon contains less fat than 3½ ounces of broiled, lean ground beef.
  • The canning process makes salmon bones soft and digestible. When you mash the bones with a fork and mix into the flaked salmon no one will notice and you will get about 290 mg of calcium in a half cup of salmon (that’s the same amount as you get in a glass of milk).
  • Salt is added to canned salmon during processing. Draining and rinsing salmon reduces the sodium by about half.

These Salmon Wraps are a great for hot summer days. No cooking to heat up the kitchen and you can make them ahead. I have served them as both an entrée and as an appetizer. The most important thing to remember is to make sure all the ingredients are not too juicy. Pat the lettuce leaves dry, scoop the center out of the cucumber etc.  You can use tuna in the recipe, but you will get fewer omega-3 fatty acids.

Salmon Wraps

Serves: 6 | Serving Size: 1 wrap | Per Serving: $1.27

Ingredients:

salmon wraps label

4 ounces low fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)

1 can (14.75 ounces) salmon

3 tablespoons light Italian dressing

¼ teaspoon black pepper

6 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas

Rinsed lettuce or spinach leaves

1 cucumber

1 tomato

Directions:

1. Soften cream cheese in medium bowl or microwave for 10 seconds.

2. Wipe top of salmon can before opening. Drain salmon in a colander and rinse with water.

3. Add salmon, dressing, and pepper to cream cheese in medium bowl. Stir to blend.

4. Spread ⅓ cup filling on each tortilla. Spread to the edges.

5. Slice tomato thinly and cut slices in half.

6. Peel cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with a spoon. Cut in half crosswise. Lay on flat side and cut into narrow strips (⅓ inch in diameter).

7. Lay lettuce or spinach leaves in the center of the tortilla. Top with tomato and cucumber down the center of the tortilla.

8. Roll up tightly. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Peggy Signature

Growing and Using Fresh Herbs

basils2I have had good luck growing culinary herbs in pots on my sunny deck. I have also grown them in the garden in well-drained soil. I enjoy being able to experiment with fresh herbs in my cooking. Plus, you can buy herb plants for about the same price as you buy one bunch at the store.

Below are some brief tips on growing and using herbs. If you want more information, check out From Garden to Table: Harvesting Herbs for Healthy Eating by North Dakota State University

 

Common Name

Growing Suggestions & Tips Ideas for Using in Cooking
Basil Likes sunny but sheltered spots. Space 8-12” apart. Grows well in containers. Good border plant. Dark green leaves have sweet flavor with mild pungency. Tomatoes; in fresh pesto; pasta sauce, peas, zucchini
Mint (including spearmint and peppermint) Has tendency to spread invasively in outdoor gardens. Purple flowers. Refreshing odor & flavor. Often used as a garnish. Roots easily from stem cuttings. Used with carrots, fruit salads, parsley, peas, desserts, spring rolls. salads, sauces
Oregano Grows well in containers. Can also propagate from cuttings or division of the mature plant. tomato dishes, beef, spaghetti, clams, soups (bean, minestrone, and tomato), beans, eggplant, and mushrooms
Parsley Grows well in a container. Keep trimmed so plant does not develop flowers. salads, vegetables, pastas
Rosemary Grows well in a container. chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted potatoes, soups, stews, tomatoes

parsleyHerbs should be purchased or picked close to the time you plan to use them. If you grow herbs in your own garden, the best time to harvest herbs is in the morning after the dew is off but the sprigs are fresh. This helps ensure the best flavor and storage quality.

Fresh herbs can be stored in an open or perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer for a few days. If you have more herbs than you can eat, put them in bouquets either alone or as part of a flower bouquet. Fresh herbs can also be dried and frozen.

Peggy Signature

Tips for Low Stress, Low Cost Entertaining

caufliflower saladThis weekend is Memorial Day. Are you entertaining friends or family? If so, a little advance planning will save dollars and make your weekend less stressful.

Here are some tips:

  • Grocery stores will feature picnic foods this week. If your family grills or picnics frequently, you may be able to stock up and save.
  • If you are barbequing, consider having everyone bring their own main dish and a side dish to share. Assign appetizers, fruit sides, vegetable sides, and desserts. Then you can supply the beverages, grill, tableware, etc.
  • If you aren’t grilling, consider using the more inexpensive beef or pork roasts to make a batch of shredded meat to put on buns or serve with rice. Another idea would be Any Day Chicken Salad.
  • If you are making the sides for the party, don’t go overboard with choices. The greater the variety, the greater the expense, more time spent in preparing, and usually more leftovers. I plan one starchy side like potato salad/baked beans/macaroni salad, a fruit or vegetable salad/tray, plus a simple dessert like bars or cookies. If you are having shredded meat as I mentioned before, think about a big bowl of rice (very cheap and super easy to make, especially if you cook it in the oven or a rice steamer). Here are some ideas from our recipe collection. These are all very simple to make so your kids can help you (kids tend to enjoy eating food they help make).

Creamy Cauliflower Saladfruit kabobs and yogurt

Pasta Salad

Fruit Salad

Fruit Kabobs with Yogurt Dip

Crunchy Cabbage Salad

Waldorf Summer Salad

As for the beverages make ice tea, lemonade or a drink mix and have water and lemon slices on hand.

Keep it simple and enjoy your guests.

Peggy Signature

Cookin’ it up for Mom on Mother’s Day

justin and parker cooking

Even though I enjoy cooking meals for my family, it’s always nice to have someone else, like my husband, doing the cooking once in a while. When my husband cooks I request that he makes quiche and butternut squash soup, since those are his specialties. My 3-year-old son also likes to ‘cook’ but his plastic play food or imaginary food just is not very filling!

Mother’s Day, which is on May 12, is a good time to cook for mom. There’s always the option of going out to eat but we have a lot of tasty recipes that are easy to make and easy on the pocketbook on our Spend Smart. Eat Smart website to try. Here are a few ideas:

To Make Mom Breakfast in Bed, Try: For Lunch or Supper, Try:

Yogurt Parfaits

French Toast

Easy Quiche

Oatmeal Pancakes

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta

Skillet Lasagna

Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake

Fish Tacos

mothers day fruit pizza

And for a sweet treat for mom, make Fruit Pizza!

Tip: If you’re a mom, make a copy of this blog and strategically place it for your family to see to give them a hint! 🙂Jodi Signature Continue reading “Cookin’ it up for Mom on Mother’s Day”

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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Fiesta Skillet Dinner, Easy and Inexpensive

Our feature recipe for March is Fiesta Skillet Dinner. Fixing up the recipe was easy while following the simple directions. The recipe calls for 2 cups of cooked chicken. I decided to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but you can use packaged, precooked chicken or precooked canned chicken.

While cooking the chicken, make sure the raw chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Poke a meat thermometer in the middle of the chicken to test for doneness. Overall, the recipe took about 30 minutes to cook from start to finish. Cooking the boneless skinless chicken breasts took the longest amount of time. To save time with cooking, I suggest cutting the raw chicken into cubes before cooking.

This dish is relatively inexpensive. The cost per serving is only $1.26 and 1 ½ cups is one serving.

This dish is loaded with flavor from the creamy cheddar cheese to the mild spice from the tomatoes and chili powder! My fiancé was very pleased with the robust flavor and dished up a second helping! Pair the dish with crunchy, raw vegetables such as carrots and slices of green pepper. Add a fruit for sweetness like a vanilla banana pudding parfait! If you are looking for a simple way to curb your taco or burrito craving, try the Fiesta Skillet Dinner today!

Guest Blogger,

Allyson Woltman , Iowa State University Dietetic Intern

Fiesta Skillet Dinner

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
Serves: 5
Cost Per Serving: $1.26
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup prepared brown instant rice (1/2 cup uncooked)
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) Mexican style tomatoes
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 cups cooked diced chicken
  • 1/2 cup 2% reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the brown rice according to package directions.
  2. While the rice cooks, mix the tomatoes, black beans, corn, chili powder, and chicken in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until heated through.
  3. Add the cooked rice and stir thoroughly. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.
  4. Serve hot.
  • This recipe freezes really well.
  • Putting the cheese on top gives more flavor, but with less cheese.
  • Using canned corn increases the sodium.
  • Wrap in a tortilla to make a sandwich.
Tips:

Rinsing canned beans removes about 40% of the sodium.

Quick Garbanzo Bean Soup

I make lots of soup in the winter.  It’s easy to do, lasts for several meals, and I can freeze small containers of it to take to work for lunch.  Most of the soup I make is broth or vegetable-based without lots of cream or cheese so it is low in calories.

This quick soup is made from garbanzo beans, which are also called chickpeas.  All my adult life I have avoided garbanzo beans because I thought they were too starchy but now I like them.  Maybe adult tastes change just like kids. Like all legumes these beans are high in protein and fiber and low in fat.

There are two features of this recipe that make it a winner.  First, it uses only one pan, and second, it calls for ingredients I keep in stock, except for the zucchini.

Since I don’t want to struggle with the winter weather and fortunate enough to have power, I think I will make some for lunch.  Instead of the zucchini I think I will add some frozen peas.

Quick Garbanzo Bean Soup

Serves: 8 | Serving Size: 1¼ cups | Per Serving: $.51

Ingredients:

  • ½ onion (about ½ cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1 can (15.5 ounce) low sodium garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¾ cup sliced carrots (about 12-15 baby carrots)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pasta (rotini, shells, etc.)
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced (about 1-2 cups sliced)

Directions:

  1. Wash, peel, and chop onion. Peel and mince garlic cloves.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic, and cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add broth, tomatoes, and water to saucepan. Stir in garbanzo beans, carrots, and seasonings.
  4. Cook on medium high heat about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in pasta and zucchini. Reduce heat to medium low.
  6. Simmer about 10 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
  7. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Christmas Cookies

My sister is having her annual cookie making “party” Saturday afternoon. She invites two of her friends, her daughter, and me to bring ingredients for cookies to her house. We all work together for 2-3 hours and end up with a nice variety of cookies. The conversation is always lively plus, we have lots of fun with many different tunes from cell phone timers going off all the time.

I am searching for a recipe for the Mexican Christmas cookie that is round and white. This is my Dad’s favorite. Last year he declared there weren’t enough nuts in the one we made, so I am on the hunt for another recipe.

I use my share of the cookies for gifts and to take to potlucks plus, I freeze some for last minute guests. I always try to buy a few holiday containers on sale after the holidays (presentation is everything!).

 

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