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 is another resource:

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

 

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

It’s Cold Outside, Time for Soup

Soup is a great comfort food for winter meals, and so good for you too. Our featured recipe for January is  Mexican Chicken Soup. Making this soup takes less time than getting in the car and driving through your favorite takeout place. You don’t have to cook the chicken ahead of time. Just place raw boneless chicken in the pot with the other ingredients. After cooking for about 20 minutes, take the chicken out and shred it into bite-size pieces. Serve it with tortilla chips or bread, apple/orange slices and you have a meal with something from each food group plus plenty of fiber. For extra instruction, check out the preparation video under the recipe instructions.

This recipe would be super economical if you made your own chicken broth and cooked dry beans instead of buying them canned; click on the hot links above to see the directions.  Another advantage of doing it yourself is that you can control the amount of sodium.
If this soup scores points with your family, check out the other soup recipes in the Cook section of the SpendSmart.EatSmart web page.  All our recipes are healthy, low-cost and easy.

Mexican Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (Mexican-style)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen corn or 1 15-ounce can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can sodium-reduced chicken broth or 2 cups Homemade Chicken Broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast

Instructions

  1. Add tomatoes, beans, corn, broth, garlic, chili powder, cumin (if desired), and pepper in large saucepan.
  2. Remove and discard any visible fat from chicken. Cut chicken into large chunks and add to the saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until chicken is tender.
  3. Remove the chicken and place on a plate; use forks to shred the chicken. Return the shredded chicken to soup.
  4. Serve with choice of garnishes, such as baked tortilla chips.

-pointers from Peggy

Healthy Homemade Gift

Are you searching for a healthy gift for a senior, camper, traveler, college student? Consider Crispy Granola, our featured recipe this month. It’s a good snack or breakfast cereal, and makes a great topping for fruit, yogurt, or  ice cream.

Unlike most granolas, this one has no added fat and only about 1 tablespoon of honey per serving. Oatmeal is a whole grain and provides soluble fiber (helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels). The dried cranberries and nuts add fruit and flavor.

I use old fashioned oats when I make this granola, but any oatmeal will work. I often double or triple the recipe and freeze some of it in freezer containers. If you are making gifts, be sure to package granola in a plastic bag or something airtight before you put it inside a holiday tin or box.

Crispy Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash salt
  • 3 cups uncooked rolled oats
  • Optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nuts 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit.
    *Either old fashioned or quick cooking oats work – both are whole grains.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a large shallow baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Put egg whites in large bowl and use a whisk or fork to mix until frothy. Stir in honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Add oats plus nuts and/or dried fruit, if desired. Stir until oats are coated with egg mixture. Spread oat mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes until golden borwn; stir mixture carefully every 5 or 6 minutes to prevent overbrowning.
  5. Remove pan to wire rack and cool completely until crispy and crunchy. Store in airtight container. Freezes well.

Snack Idea: Crispy granola, Yogurt, Sliced fruit or berries

Featured Recipe: Jicama and Black Bean Dip

If you are looking for a great tasting, very healthy dip that can also be served as a salad, check out our Jicama and Black Bean Dip. This recipe is very easy to transport and keeps for several days in the refrigerator. Baked tortilla chips taste great with it.

One of the ingredients of this recipe might be a new one to your family. Jicama [HEE-kah-mah] is often referred to as the Mexican potato. Jicama is a large tuberous root. It has a thin brown skin that should be removed with a peeler or knife. The flesh is white, crisp, juicy and slightly sweet. Because the tuber requires a very long and warm growing season, most of the jicama available in the United States is imported from Mexico and South America. Jicama may be eaten raw in salads or as part of a vegetable platter; cooked, it works well in stir-frying, soups or stews.

Jicama and Black Bean Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 small jicama, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)*
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/2 medium green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup light Itailan dressing
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
    *Jicama – Somthing new to try! This dip tastes fine without jicama, but it adds a nice crunch. This also can be served as a salad.

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, combine jicama, beans, corn, pepper, onion, and dressing. If desired, add cilantro.
  2. Stir to coat all vegetables with dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate several hours for flavors to blend.

A half cup of Jicama has only 25 calories, but supplies 22% of your need for Vitamin C and 3 grams of fiber.

Luscious, Juicy, Sweet Strawberries!

Strawberries are a great buy right now in grocery stores. The best prices I have seen are $1/pound, but most places are under $1.50/pound. According to the news, this is because Florida and California strawberries are hitting the stores at the same time this year. In a few weeks the local berries will be in season also. Get ready for some good eating!

Strawberries are naturally high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and antioxidants, and they’re low in calories and practically fat- and sodium-free. Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit.

Strawberries are perishable so you have to choose carefully and protect your investment once you get them home.

For more information and recipes, check out the tip sheet.

-pointers from Peggy

Tropical Cabbage Slaw

During the month of March, grocery stores may run really good sales on cabbage – whole heads as well as the bags of slaw. This is super news because such healthy foods aren’t always THIS cheap! Cabbage is a great source of vitamin C as well as fiber AND is low in calories – or at least is CAN be unless you go drowning it in mayo by making it into coleslaw. Here is a flavorful tip to try – use lemon or pina colada flavored yogurt for the dressing INSTEAD of mayo. It adds great flavor and a little bit of calcium to your diet. Rather than mixing up a big bowl, stir together what you can eat at one meal or snack. If you use fat free yogurt, you have a side dish that is very inexpensive AND easy on your waistline. To make it more fun, add some fruit and nuts (small amounts since they are higher in fat and more expensive). Here are some combinations I like:

  • Diced apple, raisins and walnuts with vanilla yogurt
  • Canned mandarin oranges and canned pineapple with sliced almonds and pina colada yogurt.

For a specific recipe, check out Tropical Cabbage Slaw.

-contributed by Jan Temple

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