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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Do you remember last week when I suggested you grate up a zucchini? This is why – our September recipe of the month is Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins and they are delicious! If you have not yet seen our video on preparing zucchini, check it out for some quick hints on grating a zucchini. You do not even need to peel it first!

I like to make these muffins for my children to eat before heading off to school in the morning and here is why:

  • They are made with whole wheat flour, so the fiber will keep their tummies full and the carbohydrates will give their bodies and brains the energy they need to get going in the morning.
  • They are made with both fruits (banana and applesauce) and a vegetable (zucchini). Split between 12 muffins, it may not be a lot of fruits and vegetables, but at least we are getting the day off to a better start than if we had eaten no fruits and vegetables at all.
  • They freeze well. This means I can make a double batch of muffins when I have the time and then freeze the rest for a day when I do not have much time to prepare breakfast.  Store these muffins in freezer bags for up to three months. Thaw by wrapping a muffin in a damp paper towel and re-heating in the microwave on the defrost setting until heated through.

My children like me to make these muffins because, of course, chocolate chips! There is only ¼ cup chocolate chips in the entire recipe, but it is enough to get my children excited about these muffins.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Oatmeal for Breakfast – A New Way!

Banana Oatmeal Bread WebIn the winter months, I crave a hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I love to sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar, chopped nuts, and sliced bananas. But in the summer, I rarely want a hot breakfast. I like to have something on hand that the children and I can eat quickly so we can get outside and enjoy the day before it gets too hot.

If I have the oven going for supper, I will make up a quick bread or some muffins for breakfast the next morning. This saves on energy costs because I only have to heat the oven up once and I get two meals (or four meals if I plan for leftovers). I feel like it also saves me time because it frees up my mornings to enjoy some time with my children.

Our Banana Oatmeal Bread is a great way to combine my love of oatmeal with my desire for a quick and easy breakfast. The oatmeal in this recipe is a whole grain, which provides fiber to our bodies. Eating enough fiber can help us feel full, ease constipation, and prevent diseases such as heart disease and some cancers. That is a pretty impressive list! I hope you try out this recipe for breakfast this summer.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Peanut Butter Balls For the Win!

Peanut Butter Balls It is 3:18pm on a Monday afternoon as I write this blog. How do you usually feel around 3:00 in the afternoon? If you’re anything like me, you get a little sleepy and a little hungry – or maybe a lot hungry!

This week’s blog is all about a go-to snack that can rescue you on a busy weekday afternoon when you just need a pick-me-up. Peanut Butter Balls are a sweet, chewy snack that can help you tackle the day.

As you might guess, they contain peanut butter, yum! They also contain two surprising ingredients. The first is dry oatmeal. The oatmeal binds this recipe together and provides whole grain carbohydrate for energy and fiber. You may be shocked to learn that these little snacks also get a protein boost from mashed beans in addition to the peanut butter. Weird, I know! Trust me, they’re delicious and you would never know the beans are in there once they’re dressed up with some peanut butter and honey.

I hope you’ll take my word for it and give these little treats a try. You can whip up a whole batch at once and keep them in the freezer for a quick snack anytime. Perhaps best of all, two Peanut Butter Balls cost just $0.15 to make. I challenge you to find a granola bar or trail mix for that price!

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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Zesty Whole Grain Salad

zesty_whole_grain_saladwpToday I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes – Zesty Whole Grain Salad. A student shared the inspiration for this recipe with me, and, once I tasted it, I was hooked. I ate it for lunch nearly every day for weeks.

This salad makes a perfect lunch, and this is why:

  • It tastes great with the sweet and tangy homemade salad dressing.
  • The fiber, protein, and fat will fill you up and keep you full.
  • It is easy to pack into smaller containers for lunches on the go.
  • You get fruit, vegetables, protein, and whole grains in one bowl.
  • It simplifies lunch planning for the week because it makes a lot and it stores well in the refrigerator. So you and your family can eat it for three or four days.

Zesty Whole Grain Salad
zesty-whole-grain-salad-label-webServing Size: 6  |  Serves: 1 1/2 cups  |  Cost Per Serving: $1.43
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked whole grain (brown rice, kamut™, quinoa)
  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins)
  • 1 bunch kale or 10-ounce package spinach (about 6 cups), torn into bite-sized pieces

Instructions:

  1. Cook whole grain according to package directions. Cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper.
  3. Stir apples, nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain into dressing.
  4. Toss greens with other ingredients.

Tips:

  • Substitute 2 cups of chopped fruit (strawberries, grapes, oranges) for the apples.
  • Do not give honey and nuts to infants under one year of age.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Beans, Beans the Musical Fruit

ThinkstockPhotos-158913960There are many benefits to eating beans. They are high in fiber, protein, iron, folate, and potassium. In addition, they are inexpensive so easy on the budget. There’s just one little problem…they can cause intestinal gas. And how embarrassing is that! The good news is there are ways to help reduce the amount of intestinal gas caused by eating beans.

  • Add beans to the diet slowly over a period of several weeks. This allows your body to adjust to the added fiber provided by the beans. Once you are eating beans on a regular basis, intestinal gas will be less of problem.
  • Chew beans well to help digest them.
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help your body handle the extra fiber in beans.
  • When preparing dry beans, use the hot (short) soak method of soaking beans. This method reduces many gas-producing substances in beans. Always discard soaking water and rinse beans with fresh water after soaking.

As a dietitian and a mom, beans check all of my boxes. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Keep the tips above in mind and toss some beans in your grocery cart today.

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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The Down Low on Kids and Constipation

When I was asked to write a blog for back to school the first topic that came into my mind was kids and constipation. It is often a topic no one wants to bring up, but once someone does, everyone wants to talk about it!

Constipation is a challenge we face on a regular basis with our youngest daughter. Honestly if she had a choice she would never go! This fall she starts kindergarten and I worry the holding will get worse as she may have limited access to the bathroom or simply be too afraid or shy to use it.

We have met with her pediatrician on several occasions to address this issue and to rule out any underlying health conditions. We have learned she needs to consume more fiber-rich foods, drink plenty of water, participate in daily physical activity, and the most challenging one for her….take time to go.

Fiber Foods and H2O

Many “kid foods”, such as chicken nuggets, pizza, crackers, etc. lack fiber. A low fiber diet often results in firm, painful to push out, stool. Foods that are naturally rich in fiber tend to keep stool soft. Whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans, fruits and vegetables can help. And don’t forget water! Water is very important to keep the stool moving through the system. We try to start her day off with fruit as part of her breakfast and incorporate additional fruits and vegetables at dinner and at snack. Her school does allow students to have water bottles, so we plan to send one every day.

fiber blog chart

Get Moving in More Ways than One!

kids playing outdoors park runningPhysical activity can encourage bowel movement. Organized sports or dance classes are great forms of physical activity, but we have learned it’s best not to be overscheduled. These types of activities mean less time at home, which sometimes can lead to less time to go to the bathroom. We encourage physical activity throughout the day like walking to school, playing outside, or taking the dog for a walk after dinner. Incorporating short amounts of physical activity throughout the day can go a long way.

Taking Time to Go

Many times children may ignore the urge to go because they don’t want to take a break from what they are doing. The longer they hold it the harder the stool may become. It is important to get on a schedule of taking time to go around the same time each day. We have her sit on the toilet for about 10 minutes each evening, reading a book, coloring, etc. We do this even if she says she doesn’t have to go. More often than not, she goes. It has now become part of her daily routine, just like eating breakfast, brushing her teeth, going to school, etc.

Constipation is common among children. Good nutrition, physical activity, and making bathroom breaks part of their daily routine can go a long way to help keep your children healthy and comfortable. If you are concerned about your child’s constipation, contact your pediatrician.

Carrie Scheidel, MPH
Iowa Department of Education

Jody Gatewood, MS, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

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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Will Eating More Vegetables Cause you to Gain Weight?

vegetables variety

There is a new report out by the Economic Research Service called ‘Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep’ that really surprised me. It makes me question my mantra to always “eat more fruits and vegetables”.

In a nutshell, the report said that eating more fruit is associated with healthier weight but that Americans who eat more vegetables may actually increase their calorie and sodium intake. How can that be? Vegetables are naturally low in calories and sodium.

The report found that when many Americans eat vegetables they prepare them in ways that add calories and sodium while reducing fiber. So, if you eat more vegetables you will also get more fat, sodium, and calories.

I think the disconnect is that when I recommend eating more vegetables I am thinking roasted sweet potatoes or Brussels sprouts, raw baby carrots, spinach salads, steamed green beans, raw broccoli and cauliflower florets, etc. But some people hear this recommendation and automatically think about the vegetables they are used to eating such as French fries, cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, 7 layer salad, zucchini bread, hash browns, pizza with mushrooms, spinach dip, etc.

In the future I’m going to modify my message about vegetables.  Here are a few of my modifications:

1. Most of us need to eat twice as many vegetables as we do.  But all vegetables are not created equal. Different colored vegetables provide different nutrients. Try to eat more of the dark green and orange vegetables.  Most of us don’t need to eat more white potatoes which we often fry or eat with butter or cheese.  Tomatoes are another tricky one. Fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes with no salt added are healthier choices than tomatoes cooked into pizza and spaghetti sauce which are typically high in sodium.

Dark Green Vegetables
raw baby spinach
broccoli
romaine lettuce
Orange Vegetables
baby carrots
baked sweet potato
Dry Beans*
and Peas

cooked black beans
cooked kidney beans
cooked pinto beans
Starchy Vegetables
cooked corn
baked potato
Other Vegetables
raw cauliflower
cooked green beans
iceberg lettuce
raw mushrooms
red onion
raw tomato
tomato juice
raw zucchini

2. Try to eat your vegetables without added calories and sodium.

Eat more of these…
Eat less of these…
Relish Trays or individual snack bags with raw vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms Creamed or au gratin vegetables
Spinach salad with reduced fat dressing Spinach dip
Roasted or grilled sweet potatoes or  Easy Roasted Vegetables White potatoes topped with generous amounts of butter and sour cream
Raw vegetable salads with a small amounts of reduced-fat dressing such as Creamy Cauliflower Salad or Summer Bounty Salad Raw broccoli/cauliflower salads with almost as much sour cream and mayo as vegetables
Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta or Cheesy Pasta with Summer Vegetables Pastas with lots of cream, cheese, or  canned sauces with lots of sodium

3.  Pay attention to labels. The sodium varies greatly on canned vegetables and tomato-based sauces and soups. Compare the labels so you can choose one with less sodium. Calorie labeling will soon be available in restaurant chains with 20 or more establishments and you can ask managers to provide the information in local restaurants.

Sweet Potato Fries

sweet potato RGBI love sweet potato fries. I like the flavor plus I’m getting great fiber and Vitamin A. They are one of those red/orange vegetables we are supposed to eat 5-6 cups of each week. Sweet potatoes cost more than white potatoes, but they are in-season in fall/winter so expect the best prices right now.

Making sweet potato fries can be tricky. Even restaurants that deep fry them have a hard time getting them crispy and not mushy in the middle. Our recipe doesn’t add a lot of fat by frying them and they have a nice texture, just don’t expect that they will be super crispy and brown.

One of the keys for making this recipe successfully is making sure the potato is sliced evenly.  Because raw potatoes are so hard, we suggest that you cut the potatoes lengthwise and then put the cut side down on the cutting board and slice them crosswise. This will give you a flat, stable surface when you’re cutting.

Sometimes my store sells yams and sometimes sweet potatoes. I use them both in recipes like this, but if you are curious about the difference this article is helpful. What’s the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?

 

Sweet Potato Fries

Serving Size:  about 1/2 c fries and 1 T dip | Servings: 6sweet potato label

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
  • 1 T  vegetable oil
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • DIP:
    • 1/4 c light mayo
    • 1 T ketchup
    • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, chili powder,  or paprika

Instructions

  1. Rinse potatoes under running water. Peel if desired or just scrub potatoes well.
  2. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise.
  3. Lay each potato half flat and cut into half-moon shapes.
  4. Combine potatoes, oil, and salt in a bowl. Stir so potatoes are covered with oil.
  5. Grease cookie sheet with cooking spray or vegetable oil and lay potatoes in a single layer.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.
  7. While potatoes are baking, mix the dip ingredients.
  8. Serve immediately.

 

 

Peggy Signature

Berry Buying and Storing

berries 2Spring signals gardening, baseball, bike rides, sandals, and BERRIES.

Blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries not only are delicious, but they are also top in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. (Antioxidants may help increase our immune function and protect against cancer and heart disease.)

Purchasing Berries

Berries (except for cranberries)  are “in season” in late spring and summer which means they will be less expensive now than other times of the year.

When buying, look for firm, plump, full-colored berries. Avoid buying bruised or oozing berries. Turn the container over to check berries at the bottom. Berries don’t continue to ripen after harvest, so when choosing strawberries stay away from green or yellow ones.

When I see a good deal on berries, I buy extra and freeze them. To freeze, put a single layer on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer. When frozen, put them in a freezer bag. This way they don’t freeze together and you can take out just what you need.

Storing Berries

When you get berries home, cover and refrigerate them but wait to wash them until you are ready to use them. This way they will hold for several days. To wash, put the berries in a colander and spray with clean running water and then spread on a paper towel to dry.

How to Serve Berriesstrawberry cut

Try to serve berries au natural so you don’t add a bunch of calories to them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Put some in a plastic container to eat as a snack or lunch on the go
  • Add to a bowl of whole grain cereal
  • Make a yogurt parfait
  • Sprinkle on salads
  • Make fruit kabobs along  with other fruits such as pineapple chunks, bananas, and grapes.
  • Add to frozen ice cream or yogurt
  • Make smoothies

 

For more information about berries, here are a couple of resources:

Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Blueberries, Blackberries, and Raspberries

It’s the Berries

Peggy Signature


The Secret Behind Supplements

After being diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia, I started to take an Iron + Vitamin C supplement every day.  I also started to eat foods with a higher iron content more often. So, this makes me wonder:  how much do people spend on supplements compared to their grocery bill? According to the National Institutes of Health, $33.9 billion was spent on alternative medicine in the year 2008. That is more than what the National Football League (NFL) is worth! Also, more than half of Americans are popping multivitamin pills daily and about one-third are using some sort of alternative medicine (vitamins or herbs in a pill form).

Whether you choose to take dietary supplements or not, it is vital to eat foods packed with various vitamins and minerals, such as fruits and vegetables, every day.  Even though it may be possible to save money when buying a supplement to take place of food, this is not always the case.  Plus with food you get more than just the particular nutrient listed on the label.

So how much does the cost of a dietary supplement compare to a similar food?  Check out this table.  Prices are from central Iowa in June 2012.

Supplement Price per serving Nutritional value per serving Food item with comparable nutrients Price per serving Nutritional value per serving
Muscle Milk, Ready to Drink Chocolate Flavor $3.99 20g protein 3oz chicken breast $.60 25g protein
Nature Made Fish Oil 1000mg $.29 900mg Omega 3 ¼ cup of walnuts $.87 2,500mg of Omega 3
Benefiber Powder, Sugar Free, Orange Flavor + Calcium $.48 3g fiber 1 medium apple $.40 4.4g of fiber
Viactiv Milk Chocolate Soft Chews + Vitamin D $.20 1000mg calcium 8oz skim milk $.17 300mg of calcium

If you decide to buy a dietary supplement, you should do your research on the supplement first. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does NOT regulate dietary supplements. Visit the manufacturer’s website for product information or the FDA’s website for more information on dietary supplements: http://www.fda.gov/food/dietarysupplements/default.htm

                                                ~ Missy Anker, Dietetic Intern