A Happy, Healthy Heart

February is American Heart month. It’s a time to focus on habits that can help us live heart healthy lives. This is important because heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the US. 

One habit that makes your heart happy is being active. Any opportunity to move is good for your heart, such as taking the stairs or playing with your kids. It’s also important to include some planned physical activity in to your week to increase your heart rate and strengthen your muscles. 

Last year we added some at-home workout videos to the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website that can help you increase your activity. Below is a sample calendar for how to incorporate them into your weekly workout plan

Sample week

Day 1 Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7
At-home workoutBeginner Strength Training30 minute walkRest or stretchingAt-home workoutCardio IntervalAt-home workout Beginner Strength TrainingRest or stretching30 minutewalk

Here are some key points to keep in mind.

  • Exercise Safely – Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise plan.
  • Consistency-The most important key to success is consistency. The recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week is a goal. However, it is better to be active for a short amount of time on a regular basis than not do anything because of limited time or energy. 
  • Variety-Variety in your workouts and in the intensity of the workouts throughout the week helps prevent boredom. It also allows you to move your body in different ways to strengthen different muscle groups. 
  • Rest days-It is important to include rest days throughout the week. This allows your body time to recover and get stronger. Rest days may also include some gentle stretching. Listen to your body and, if needed, add an extra rest day.
  • Fuel your activity-In order to have the energy and strength to be active, it is important to fuel your body. Use the MyPlate Plan to determine how much you need to eat from each food group. 

Use the Move Your Way Activity Planner to start planning your weekly routine to build a healthy and happy heart!

woman stretching

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.

More Posts

Be Active Your Way Every Day

You might be wondering why this blog is titled Be Active Your Way Every Day. What does that have to do with eating healthy on a budget? Well, being active might not affect your grocery budget but it is important to your health! Being active helps you sleep better, feel better and have more energy.  Who doesn’t want all of those things?

Here are the current recommendations for physical activity:

  • Adults should get at least 2 ½ hours of aerobic physical activity each week. This type of activity works your heart and lungs such as walking, running, or swimming.
  • If you break up the 2 ½ hours over the week, this means being active for 30 minutes 5 days of the week.
  • When your schedule is busy or you are just starting to be more physically active, do it in small segments of 10 minutes or so. To get in your 30 minutes of activity for the day you could walk for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes in the evening.
  • It is also recommended to do strength and flexibility training 2-3 times a week. This could be lifting weights, stretching, or doing exercises like squats and push-ups.
  • Children need to get 60 minutes or more of active play every day.

There are many ways to be active such as biking, gardening, dancing, and playing outside. When it comes to being active, the important thing is to find something you enjoy doing that moves your body!

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.

More Posts

Roasted Cauliflower

Our March recipe of the month is Roasted Cauliflower. Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables and my children love roasted vegetables, so this recipe goes over well at my house. The delicious roasted flavor of the cauliflower plus the texture from the breadcrumbs really makes this recipe a winner.

Here are some things to keep in mind when making this recipe:

  • Cut up the whole head of cauliflower at one time since it can be a big and messy job. You probably will not need all of the cauliflower for this recipe, but you can store the extra in small baggies or containers to pack in lunches.
  • Coat the cauliflower florets in the oil first and then add the seasonings and breadcrumbs to make sure that they stick well to the cauliflower.
  • Line your baking sheet with foil then spray with nonstick cooking spray to make clean up easy.

I hope you enjoy our Roasted Cauliflower!

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Ramen Noodle Skillet

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Ramen Noodle Skillet recipe is always a winner at my house. My husband loves it, my children devour it, and even the grandmas and grandpas enjoy it when they come to visit. Ramen noodles are an inexpensive and easy meal, but they do not keep you full for long. Our Ramen Noodle Skillet adds vegetables and meat to give those noodles staying power.

I would enjoy telling you how to make this dish, but I don’t need to. We now have a short Ramen Noodle Skillet video that will show you all you need to know about this delicious recipe. Take a minute to watch our new video and then add the recipe to your menu for this week. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website


My family loves kiwi fruit. One of my favorite stories of my oldest son involves kiwi fruit. One night, my husband had washed two kiwis and set them on a paper towel to air dry. He intended to put them in his lunch the next morning before he headed to work, but he forgot. At lunch that day, I peeled and cut up the kiwis and shared them with my son who was two years old at the time. I told him that these were daddy’s kiwis and, since he forgot them, we were going to eat them. He thought it was so funny that we were eating “daddy’s tiwis”. That night when my husband returned home, my son started laughing so hard that he could hardly speak. Finally, we heard him say, “we ate your tiwis daddy!”.

Each time I eat a kiwi, I think of my two year old son mispronouncing the word kiwi. For a long time, I wondered if I was eating kiwi the right way. I just did not know the best way to get at them. As it turns out, there really is no right or wrong way to eat a kiwi – you can eat the whole thing, you can cut it in half and scoop out the inside, or you can peel it. If you would like to use kiwi slices to decorate a fruit pizza or kiwi dices to put in a fruit salad (or feed a hungry two year old), peeling the kiwi is the way to go. We have a new video that shows the quickest and easiest way to peel a kiwi – the spoon method.

Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

It’s Apple Season!

It is Apple Season! October is National Apple Month. These days, there are so many varieties of apples available that you may be wondering which variety to buy.  Which apple is best for a specific use, how to store apples for best quality, or how many apples are in a pound or bushel?

Apples are considered a great snack food as an average sized apple contains about 90 calories and is about 85% water. That makes them thirst quenching and a quick energy provider with their natural sugars, plus the bulky pulp makes the eater feel full.  They also make a great portable snack; take one along to work, school, or when you are running errands.

Apples may be displayed in a fruit bowl at room temperature for a short period of time but that will dramatically reduce their usable life. Apples will last the longest when kept close to 32 degrees. For most of us that would mean the refrigerator. Apples stored near 32 degrees in perforated plastic bags or covered containers will last 8-10 times longer than if stored at room temperature.

Here are some fun apple math facts:

3 medium sized apples equal approximately 1 pound
Pared and sliced, 1 pound apples yields 2 3/4 cups
A peck of apples weighs 10.5 pounds
A bushel of apples weighs 42 pounds
A bushel of apples will yield 15 – 20 quarts of applesauce

The best baking apples offer a balance of sweet and tart flavors as well as flesh that doesn’t break down in the oven. Granny Smith apples are generally thought of as the go-to baking apples but there are others that hold up well under heat and balance the sweet-tart flavor. The crisp texture of the Honey Crisp apple will hold firm when baked or caramelized. Pink Lady apples will retain a distinct shape when diced and added to coffee cake or muffins.  Jonathans are tart and tangy and have been pie favorites for many years.


Bred to be an eating apple, Red Delicious are not good for baking. They are mild-flavored, sweet, and juicy. Other apples good for eating fresh are Gala, Fuji, and Braeburn.  These apples also work well in salads.

Enjoy apple season this year and have fun experimenting with different variety combinations in your baking.

Written by: Liz Meimann, Beth Marrs, Marcia Steed, and Marlene Geiger- Answerline Staff

Simple Apple Dessert

simple-apple-dessert-web“What’s for dessert?”  That is a question I hear a lot at my home.  Thankfully, my children are usually satisfied with a dish of fruit for their dessert. But, sometimes they want something special – something a little sweeter to top off their meal.  Our October recipe of the month, Simple Apple Dessert, makes that fruit special.

Simple Apple Dessert combines two of my children’s favorite foods, fruit and yogurt, into a tasty and quick dessert.  Simply microwave chopped apples with caramel syrup.  Top the cooked apples with yogurt and toasted nuts and you have a sweet way to top off your meal.



Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Is it safe for my family to eat GMO foods?

Choosing ripe bananasThere is a lot of buzz out there about GMO foods and some of it sounds really scary. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, so right there you are probably saying ‘no way do I want to eat that!’ The fact is that GMO is a process of changing the way a plant or animal expresses genes. Farmers have been putting in and taking out genes from living things for ages using hybridization and selective breeding. Red Delicious apples, seedless watermelons and broccoli do not grow in the wild. They are cultivated crops, as are the wide variety of fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores.  In fact, almost all of our food is created through genetic manipulation. Modern technology allows these changes to be done more precisely.

So how do GMOs end up in food? You may have heard that ‘70% of all foods contain GMO’. This is due to the fact that many foods use corn, soybean or canola oil, corn-derived sweeteners or starch, soy proteins, or other compounds produced from these plants – and almost all of the corn and soybeans grown in the US, and the canola grown in Canada are GMO. But should that be a concern? No and here is why. This may come as a surprise, but we eat DNA whenever we consume a plant or animal food! Strawberries, carrots and eggs contain DNA and when we eat those foods our digestive system breaks the DNA down into basic components.  We do not absorb the DNA into our bodies. This is the same for GMO DNA. It is broken down along with all the other DNA in the food when we eat it. Claims that eating GMOs will alter DNA or reproductive health or cause cancer are unscientific and false. The other fear that sometimes is linked to GMO foods is that the DNA produces a protein in the plant or animal which could cause an allergic reaction. Rest assured that no allergenic response to a GMO food has ever been documented and the FDA and USDA make sure that no potential allergenic proteins are used in GMOs that could end up in the food system. One last reason to not worry about GMO in foods, especially oils and sweeteners, is that these ingredients are highly purified and contain no DNA or proteins at all.

Major health organizations around the world have reviewed the safety of GMO foods and have concluded that there is no reason to worry. GMO foods have been part of the food supply for over 20 years now with no link to any illness or disease. You can be confident that eating foods that have GMO ingredients or have been developed using GMO technology are healthy and safe for you and your family. Some food producers are taking advantage of consumers’ misunderstanding of GMOs and using the non-GMO label as a marketing tool. You do not need to buy higher priced, non-GMO foods or avoid foods that have GMO ingredients. If you want to learn more go to www.GMOanswers.com

Dr. Ruth MacDonald
Professor and Chair
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Iowa State University

Approach your football tailgate with a game plan!

Football season is back! With football comes tailgating and lots of yummy foods. Between the sour cream dip with chips and brats on the grill, I find it quite difficult to plan healthy menu options when rooting on my team. It always seems more convenient to run to the store shortly before you leave for the game to grab some treats for the tailgating party. With a little planning and prep work, you can make some quick, easy, and healthy recipes the night before to bring with you.

Here are two nutrition labels comparing our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Mango Salsa recipe and a store bought Peach Mango Salsa.


When comparing the two recipes you notice that the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe offers roughly 50% less sodium per serving than the store bought brand. Although 160 mg per serving is low, that is only for 2 tablespoons of salsa. I know when I am attending a football tailgate I’m not always conscious about the amount of food or even sauces I am consuming so would likely consume more than 2 tablespoons. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Most people consume 3,000 or more milligrams per day. Preparing food at home is one way to keep your sodium intake down. Making the homemade salsa with fresh mangos will also give you 25% of your needed vitamin C intake. The store bought salsa only provides you 4% of your daily Vitamin C needs.

So, this fall when you are planning for your weekend football tailgate party, create a game plan to make some dishes from scratch. This will provide a more healthy option for the rest of your party and a cheaper option for you as you cheer your team on to victory!

Written by Cassie Pappas, ISU Dietetic Intern

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.

More Posts

Confetti Rice and Bean Salad

Confetti Rice and Bean SaladHappy Labor Day from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team!  Our September recipe of the month is perfect for a Labor Day picnic – Confetti Rice and Bean Salad.

A delicious homemade lime salad dressing tops fresh tomatoes, carrots, and onions along with frozen corn and (as the name says) brown rice and beans.   This recipe makes a great side dish on its own or as a dip served with tortilla chips.  It can also be served as a main dish – wrapped in a tortilla or lettuce leaf.  No matter how you serve it, have fun with this recipe by using different types of beans and vegetables.



Justine Hoover

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

More Posts - Website

Join Our Mailing List

Enter your email address:


Posts from the Past