Take Control of your Blood Pressure

1 in 6-05February is Heart Month, a time for us all to think about heart health for ourselves and those we love. Heart health is complicated and many factors contribute to it, but many of those factors are within our control.

High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. One in every six Americans has high blood pressure and for certain groups the rate is even higher. Two out of every five African Americans have high blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people with high blood pressure are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.

So what can you do?

  1. Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be and check it every few months. You can have it checked at your doctor or at your local pharmacy. If you have high blood pressure you may want to have a blood pressure cuff at home for regular monitoring.
  2. If you smoke, quit! Quitline Iowa can help. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
  3. If your doctor prescribes blood pressure medicine, take it as directed.
  4. Reduce the amount of sodium you eat. Follow these steps from the CDC to reduce sodium in your diet.
  • Cook more food at home and eat less food from restaurants.
  • Buy fresh, frozen (no sauce) or no salt added canned vegetables.
  • Buy low sodium or reduced sodium versions of products like soups, sauces and ready-made dishes like flavored rice or pasta.
  • Compare Nutrition Facts labels on food packages.

In next week’s blog we’ll feature some of the foods that sneak in way more sodium than you might expect! What new habit can you start this week that will make your heart happy and healthy?

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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A Healthier Me in 2016: Water

ThinkstockPhotos-122401240This month on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we have been talking about setting goals in the new year.  To be completely honest, setting goals is really hard for me right now with a new baby at home.  But, in the spirit of the new year, I am going to set a public goal and you can all hold me accountable for sticking with it.

So, here it is: This year, I will drink 12 cups of fluids each day.

Drinking enough fluids is hard for me because I do not remember to do it. Then, by the end of the day, I am thirsty and I have a headache. Since I am nursing my baby, I need to make sure to get enough fluids for the both of us. I need to have enough fluids to make enough milk for my baby while at the same time preventing myself from getting dehydrated. My plan is to drink one cup of milk with each meal and then keep my water bottle within reach for the rest of the day. Thankfully, my water bottle has measurements on the side, so I know how much water I am getting throughout the day.

I have chosen this goal because I know that getting enough fluids, especially water, is essential to overall health. Most people need 10-15 cups of fluid each day. We get about 20% of that fluid from the foods we eat, especially fruits and vegetables. We have to drink the remaining 80%, which is about 8-12 cups.  I need to drink about 12 cups (the upper limit) because I am nursing; this amount is not necessary for most people.

I think it is going to take some time, but, with a little practice, I am confident that I can meet my goal. I wish you the best of luck on the goal you have set for yourself in the new year!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Whose Plate? MyPlate!

myplate_greenWith a New Year just under way, many people are focused on losing weight. Unfortunately, some of the diets people follow to lose weight are not healthy. People tend to cut out foods or food groups, go on restrictive diets or spend money on unnecessary supplements and drinks. At a recent health and wellness fair I spoke at, one participant mentioned to me that she “just wanted someone to tell her what to eat”. I can totally understand where she was coming from! It seems like every day we hear about a new fad diet or food that we thought was healthy that someone says is not. It can get very confusing.

I told her to ‘model your plate after The MyPlate icon and recommendations given on www.choosemyplate.gov are healthy, sensible, and easy to remember’. MyPlate is based on a 10-inch plate so be sure to check your plate size. Forget about the fads and miracle diets, follow these simple ideas and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy plate.

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Choose from fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables. Include more red, orange, and dark-green vegetables such as broccoli, leafy greens, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes in your meals.
  • Make at least half your grains whole. One-quarter of your plate should be grains. Choose 100% whole grain cereals, bread, crackers, rice, and pasta. You might also try quinoa, barley, or bulgur.
  • Vary your protein food choices. One-quarter of your plate should be lean protein such as beans and peas, seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, and nuts. Visit our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website for main dish recipes using a variety of protein sources.
  • Switch to skim or 1% milk. In addition to low-fat milk, drink more water and unsweetened beverages. If drinking juice, choose 100% fruit juice.

When people commit to losing weight or eating healthy, they tend to focus on what they ‘shouldn’t’ eat. Instead, focus on what you should eat for good health. Go to www.choosemyplate.gov to find out how many servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and low-fat dairy you need.

When it comes to eating healthy and weight loss, people tend to get confused about what kind and how much fat they should be eating. Fat is necessary for good health, however, some types of fat are healthier choices than others. Read the blog next week to learn about the different types of fat and the foods they are in.

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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Eating protein foods on a budget

protein foods blogMy total is what?!? There has been a lot of sticker shock at the grocery store lately. Food prices in general have increased in the last couple of years, but meat prices have gotten a lot of attention lately. Foods from the Protein Foods Group are important sources of protein, iron, vitamins B and E, zinc and magnesium. Therefore, it’s necessary to determine how to fit them into your diet but stay within your food budget.

Here are four tips for including protein foods in your diet and staying within your budget:

  1. Use www.choosemyplate.gov to determine how much food you need from the Protein Foods Group. The amount needed for the average person is 5-6 ounces. If you’re eating meat, this is just about the size of two decks of cards. Most Americans consume much more than this. By not eating larger portions than you need, you can stay within your food budget.
  2.  Choose both animal and plant-based sources of protein. As seen by this chart, the cost of a serving of protein varies by type. Some protein foods like hot dogs are inexpensive, but also higher in fat and sodium than other protein foods. By including a variety of protein sources in your diet, you can enjoy the kinds of protein you prefer but balance the cost. Be sure to consider nutritional value along with cost when choosing what sources of protein to eat.
  3. Watch for sales at the grocery store. When meat your family enjoys is on sale, buy extra and put in your freezer for use at a later time.
  4. Choose recipes that help stretch protein foods. For more expensive sources of protein, use them in recipes that make them go further. Soups, casseroles, stir-fry, and salads combine meat and poultry with beans, grains, vegetables, and dairy to make more servings.

Common sources of protein foods that I eat include ground beef, chicken breast, eggs, beans, peanut butter, and nuts. Here are some of the dishes I like to prepare with protein foods:

Ground Beef

Tacos
Spaghetti
Skillet lasagna
Homemade pizza
Chili

Chicken Breast

Mexican Chicken Soup
Quick Pad Thai
Chicken Fajitas
Chicken Enchiladas

Eggs

Scrambled Egg Muffins
Breakfast Burritos
Egg Sandwich

Beans

Mexican Chicken Soup
Chili
Make Ahead Mexican Rollups

According to MyPlate, I need 6 ounces of protein foods per day. If I eat an egg and cheese on an English muffin for breakfast, 2 servings (2 cups) of Mexican Chicken Soup for lunch, and a serving of Skillet Lasagna for supper, I will eat the 6 ounces of protein foods recommended for me. There will also be enough Mexican Chicken Soup and Skillet Lasagna for my family to eat and we will still have leftovers for another day.

Protein foods are necessary for good health. With some planning and some go-to recipes, you can eat your favorite protein foods and stick to your budget. Do you have a favorite trick for making meat go further? Share it on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart Facebook page.

Jodi Signature

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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Do it Yourself Meal Kits for Kids

Better Nutrition, Lower Cost, and Less Waste

The commercials for ready-to-go meal kits for kids, make them look like fun and excitement in a box. The reality is a little different. There is no arguing with the fact that these meal kits are convenient, but are you really getting a good value for your money?

Take a look inside the box, not so appetizing. Let’s take a look at what I got for my money.

NEWnutrition facts and ingredients

Ingredients – We’ve all heard that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Take a look at this ingredient list.

Nutrition – Meal kits typically contain far more sodium, saturated fat, and sugar than kids need in a meal. Most include no fruits or vegetables at all. Take a look at this nutrition facts label from a store bought meal kit. The calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium are quite high.

Waste – Imagine the amount of garbage these packages generate in a school cafeteria!

Cost – The average price for meal kits at my store was $2.79. This is actually more expensive than school lunch at most schools and far less nutritious.

sodium chart larger

I decided to challenge myself to come up with some healthy DIY versions of these meal kits that would be easy to prepare and just as fun for kids.

I started with some reusable containers that had dividers like the meal kits’ disposable boxes and an ice pack to keep the food cold. I also set some rules for myself:

  • Create boxes that follow MyPlate guidelines.
  • Use only items that can be packed on Sunday and keep fine until Friday. I’m only packing lunches once!
  • Use only items that require minimal preparation like cutting or chopping.

DIY lunchable

Check out the list below for some foods from each food group that work with my rules.

chart green
My meal kit has much more color, nutrition and appeal than the store bought one and I bought the ingredients for 10 kits like this (assuming two kids with five lunches each) for less than $20.00. That’s less than $2.00 per kit. Assuming kids will purchase milk at school to go with their DIY meal kits; the price is just below the price of the store bought ones.

The National School Lunch Program at your child’s school provides convenient, nutritious meals for a great value, but these ready-to-go DIY meal kits are a good option for kids who prefer to bring their lunch.

 s Signature-1

 

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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App for Tracking Food, Weight, Exercise

I have used several apps to track my food and exercise. The one I am currently using, MyFitnessPal, is just about perfect for me and it receives the highest rating by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If you don’t have a smart phone you can do the same thing on the MyFitnessPal web site.

myfitnesspal iphone

Why do I like it?

  1. It is free.
  2. It has a large food database with more than 1,100,000 foods with the option for food or recipe entry.
  3. It includes a database of more than 350 fitness exercises, with calories burned for a “net” calories remaining.
  4. It is easy to scan barcodes to add foods.
  5. It provides a weekly average and other detailed reports and charts of your progress over time. This is motivational for me.
  6. It offers the analysis of fat, calories, protein and carbohydrates; PLUS iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.

MyFitnessPal also lets you add friends and link to Facebook for support. I haven’t used this feature, but it looks interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

Peggy Signature

Should I Follow a Gluten Free Diet?

As a dietetic intern, I get frequent questions about gluten free diets. Most of these questions have been prompted by articles on Facebook, websites and celebrity’s books. I can’t believe all the claims being made for gluten free diets such as, gluten free diets help with weight loss, increase energy and concentration, improve autism and rheumatoid arthritis, and in general are supposed to be healthier.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. Food we consume everyday like cookies, cakes, pizza, pasta, cereals and breads have gluten in them.

Approximately 1% of the population has a medical condition called celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine lining and  prevents absorption of nutrients from foods that are consumed. The damage is due to a reaction of eating gluten.

Most of us will not benefit from a gluten free diet. There is no current evidence that eating a gluten free diet will help with weight loss or is a healthier diet in general. In addition, not consuming these food products means you may be lacking essential nutrients like iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate and  fiber in your diet.

Interestingly, research has shown that gluten free products are higher in fat. Looking at the nutrition of a regular vs. a gluten free food product; 1 slice of regular multigrain bread has 120 calories, 1 gram of total fat and has 12% of your daily fiber intake and 15% of your daily intake of iron (based on 2,000 calorie diet). Gluten free multigrain bread has 80 calories, 3.5 grams of total fat, 4 % of your daily fiber intake and 2 % of your daily iron intake.

The cost of eating gluten free products is significantly higher. Gluten free products cost 242% more than regular products and lack variety. The graph below shows the food cost comparison of regular items vs. gluten free items.

Gluten Chart

So before you consider switching to a gluten free diet, consider saving money and eating non- gluten free foods that provide you with excellent nutrition and health benefits. Also, if you have symptoms of celiac disease (gas, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss/gain, fatigue) contact your healthcare provider to set up an appointment for appropriate screening.

The Mythbusters poster was created by an ISU nutrition class. Let’s bust the myths!

Print

True or False? 

Gluten free diet is a healthier diet for everyone.

Gluten free products have fewer calories.

Gluten containing grains contribute to more than 75% of typical daily grain consumption.

Celiac disease is a food allergy.

Celiac disease is easy to diagnosis.

Gluten free diet can compromise gut immunity.

Check back for the answers Tuesday, June 18, 2013 on our facebook page!  https://www.facebook.com/spendsmarteatsmart
Abbie Brekken, 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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MyPyramid Changes to MyPlate

Last week MyPyramid changed to MyPlate.

Dietitians and nutrition educators have been waiting for months for a new icon.  We knew there was going to be a change, but the details were kept top secret.  The new icon has a simple, but important message, we need foods from all five food groups at our meals AND half our plate should be fruits and vegetables.  Unlike the MyPyramid icon that tried to convey many specific messages, this new icon is just supposed to remind us about healthy eating.   Stay tuned as nutrition educators get innovative about how to use the new logo for breakfast and snacks as well as for meals.

There are lots of interesting programs on the ChooseMyPlate web site.  You can find interactive tools to analyze your diet and exercise, plan your diet, plan your child’s diet, and compare calories and nutrition between two foods.   Many of these activities will be rolled over to a new website planned to debut this fall.

New on the ChooseMyPlate site is a series called Ten Tips.  This consists of 14 different topics each with 10 tips/suggestions for changes you can make to be healthier.

Pointers by Peggy

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