Meal Planning for the Health of It

Last week Rachel shared five red flags to look out for when considering diet advice. In the blog, she
mentioned learning new skills that can improve your health, like meal planning, instead of focusing
solely on weight. Meal planning is a popular practice; especially at the beginning of the year when
people are trying to eat better, save money and be more organized. It can help you check off all three!
Today I’m going to share with you five tips for meal planning with health in mind.

  1. Include foods from each of the food groups. This allows you to get a variety of nutrients provided by
    each of the food groups needed for good health. Our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet has a checklist at
    the bottom to help you determine if you included something from each food group.
  2. Balance the food groups throughout the day. Aim to have 1-2 food groups at snacks and 3-4 food
    groups at meals. For example, at breakfast you might have a scrambled egg, slice of whole-wheat toast,
    an orange, and glass of milk. Then at snack you have celery sticks with peanut butter.
  3. Include two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables. This is a general guide for each person
    per day. An example would be a banana for breakfast, an apple and broccoli for lunch, and vegetable
    soup for dinner. To determine the specific amount you need and for information on what counts as a
    serving, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
  4. Include whole grains. Whole grains have more fiber, which is important for health. It is recommended
    to make half your grains whole grains. Therefore, if your family prefers white pasta, balance that out by
    including other whole grains in your menu plan like brown rice or whole wheat bread.
  5. Include both plant and animal proteins. Animal proteins are a good source of iron while plant
    proteins are higher in fiber. If you have chicken at lunch, consider having lentil tacos for supper. Or mix
    both beans and meat with pasta instead of just meat.
    If you’re new to meal planning, use our sample meal planning calendar to help get started. We also have
    a new sample vegetarian meal planning calendar.

Next week Justine will share a recipe for Cheesy Chicken Casserole that you just might want to include
on your meal plan!

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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Altering Recipes for Better Health

As a mom, I want to make foods for my family that taste good and are good for them. Sometimes I do this by altering a recipe to make it a bit healthier but still taste good.  For some recipes, I reduce the amount of an ingredient. In others, I substitute one ingredient for another. Small changes can make a big difference in the amount of fat, salt, sugar and fiber in a dish.

Here are some ways I alter recipes to make them healthier:

  • Reduce the amount of sugar by 1/3.
  • Replace ¼ to ½ of refined flour with whole-wheat flour.
  • Use plain yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Substitute skim or low-fat milk for whole milk.
  • Use whole grains in place of refined grains.

 

For more ways to alter recipes for better health, use this guide by Purdue Extension.  Try making one change at a time so you can see what works best for your recipe and what your family likes. And some recipes, like family traditions, might be best to enjoy as they are!

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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What is all the Fuss about Fiber?

You may have noticed TV commercials and food packages that label a food as high in fiber or an excellent source of fiber. Have you ever wondered why fiber matters for our health? Over the next three weeks, we will focus on fiber including health benefits, how to get fiber and how to spot it on a food label. Women need about 25g of fiber per day and men need about 38g.

Fiber performs multiple functions in our bodies and it is an important part of healthy eating habits. Fiber can prevent constipation and keep your digestion moving. Think of fiber as the custodian of your colon – it sweeps everything along and keeps it moving. If someone in your house struggles with constipation try eating more high fiber foods. Fiber-rich foods also tend to be more filling than foods that are low in fiber and they are often lower in calories. This means that eating foods high in fiber can help you maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, eating more fiber may lower your LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Here are some foods to try to boosts your fiber consumption:

  • Vegetables (especially peas, broccoli, corn and potatoes)
  • Fruits (especially raspberries, bananas, oranges and apples and pears with their skin)
  • Oats
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts
  • Whole wheat products like bread, pasta or crackers
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Popcorn

Next week Justine will share a sample weekly meal plan that includes meals and snacks with high fiber ingredients.

Talk to you next week!

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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Skip the Sugary Drinks

What are the go-to drinks around your house? I am wrapping up our series on the 5210 campaign this week with a look at sugary drinks. 

Our friends at the 5210 campaign encourage 0 sugary drinks and drinking more water instead. We at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. are big fans of enjoying food and it is rare for us to encourage readers to eat or drink ‘zero’ of something. However, sugary drinks do contribute a lot of calories and no feeling of fullness. They cost you money and really give nothing that your body needs in return.

Drinking sugary drinks like fruit punch, soda, lemonade and sports drinks in childhood is associated with overweight and obesity, less milk consumption and dental cavities. If you or your kiddos are big fans of sugary drinks, try looking at them as treats. Consider setting a goal of replacing one per day with water or milk. Having a sugary drink on occasion as a special treat is a way to enjoy them without the health problems associated with drinking them as a daily habit.

Have you been successful with reducing sugary drink consumption at your house? Share what worked for you on our Facebook or Twitter this week!

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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Youth Dental Health Month

IMG_2236My 6-year old son complains about doing it. My 2-year old daughter would do it 5 times a day if you let her. What am I talking about? Brushing their teeth.

It’s not just about preventing cavities, taking care of our teeth is so important to overall health. One reason is because strong, healthy teeth are necessary in order to eat a nutritious diet that includes crunchy fruits and vegetables, like apples, carrots, and broccoli. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Teaching children how to take care of their teeth at a young age will help them develop healthy lifelong habits. The American Dental Association gives these recommendations:

  • Brush two minutes, two times a day.
  • Clean between your teeth daily.
  • Limit snacks, eat healthy meals.
  • Visit your dentist regularly.

I would also add ‘drink water instead of sugary beverages’. There are 8-10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce can of regular pop. The sugar is not good for teeth and the pop provides no nutrition. If children want something sweet to drink, freeze juice in an ice cube tray to use in water. As the ice melts it will provide a slight sweet taste to the water without adding a lot of extra sugar. If children drink juice, be sure it is 100% juice and limit it to 4-6 ounces or less per day.

Make brushing your teeth fun by doing it together or putting on a song that lasts two minutes to pass the time. Just don’t let your 2-year old get a hold of the new tube of toothpaste!

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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Getting Active when Time is Tight

It is important to me that my family eat well, but being active matters too. As a working mom of two daughters I am always looking for more energy!  The cheapest and easiest way for me is by adding physical activity into my day. It feels great to get the blood pumping through my body. Afterwards I always think I’m so glad I did that.   But being a mom with limited time requires creativity. Currently my three favorite ways to get active are:

  • Take a neighborhood walk. My daughters love a good ride in the stroller. We talk about our days, and my two-year old loves to point out what she sees – birds, school buses, other kids, dogs, trees, flowers, rabbits, lawn mowers, bicycles, etc.
  • Walk to run errands. Sometimes I need to grab a sandwich at lunch, or return a book to the library or mail a letter at the post office. I love when it is just a few blocks away and I can walk there. A 15-minute walk to and from the store means I have completed my activity for the day and I didn’t have to find any additional time (or load kids into car seats)!
  • Watch you tube videos. There are so many free exercise videos out there. My daughter thinks it is so much fun to hop alongside me doing jumping jacks, push-ups, running in place, and dancing. Being silly together is a real treat for both of us.

 

Guest Blogger

Sarah Taylor Watts

Physical Activity Coordinator
Iowa Department of Public Health

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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Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

young boy sick cold blowing noseHow are you feeling today? I hope you are feeling well and that you will enjoy a winter without having a cold or the flu.

Unfortunately, I am not feeling so well, I am fighting a cold that my daughter, son, and husband have already had. I tried my best to prevent it. I made sure that we were all washing our hands. I made sure that everyone was getting enough sleep. I made sure that we were eating healthy meals. I tried everything I could think of, but we all got sick. There are still things I can do to help us get well soon.

Here are the top five things I do to prevent getting sick or, if we do get sick, to help us get better fast:

  1. Wash hands frequently. Washing hands correctly (see the steps here) is the best way to stop germs from spreading from one person to another. Wash hands after wiping noses, coughing, going to the bathroom, and before every meal and snack.
  2. Drink plenty of fluids. Most people need to drink at least eight cups of fluids every day. When we are sick, we need even more, especially if we have a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting. Choose fluids that taste good and are soothing to you. I usually choose hot tea because it feels good on my dry, scratchy throat and I like the taste of it. My husband and children prefer 100% fruit juice when they are sick.
  3. Eat fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that can help our immune systems fight off germs.
  4. Eat chicken noodle soup. Eating chicken noodle soup when sick has many benefits. The warm broth soothes a sore throat and provides fluids. The vegetables and whole grain noodles supply or bodies with vitamins and minerals. The chicken is a lean protein that can help our immune systems. I try to make a large batch of chicken noodle soup and then freeze it in smaller containers so it is ready to go when I am sick and not feeling like cooking. Spend Smart. Eat Smart has a wide variety of soup recipes.
  5. Get plenty of sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Children need more. When we are sick, we need even more sleep than usual to heal. It is ok to call in sick to work or school to get some extra rest when sick. This has an added bonus of not spreading your germs on to your friends and co-workers.

I hope you enjoy a happy, healthy new year!

– Justine

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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Resolve to Eat More Meals as a Family

If you have children at home, having regular meals together is one way you can improve their health and academic performance.  Iowa State University staff review the research behind the benefits of family meals and tips for putting family meals into practice in a blog called Family Meal Time and a publication called Say “Yes” to Family Meals.

Even if you are single or have no children at home, I think eating with someone has benefits.   When I share a meal with friends or family it usually has food from most, if not all, the food groups.  Plus, I think I eat smaller portions. Sometimes when I eat alone I choose popcorn and a diet soda.  When I eat alone I do not have the opportunity to discuss what is happening in the community around me.  Instead the TV is on or I am reading the paper while eating.

 

Family meals or a meal with another is something to consider for your New Year’s Resolution.  To give it a better chance to becoming a habit, develop your idea into a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

-Peggy

Spend Smart with SafeFood©

We all know there is a cost to buying food, but that cost can be magnified if the safety of products is not considered. Products past their expiration dates or damaged items may have deep discounts. For some types of foods that can mean good savings. But, for other types, over aged or damaged foods could put you at risk for a foodborne illness—and that will cost you, not just in physical pain but also lost work time and reduced productivity. So, think about what foods on sale are a good deal in the long run—to your health.

Learn how to prevent cross contamination when buying, storing and preparing foods at ISU’s Food Safety website

                             – contributed by Cathy Strohbehn

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