Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Our May recipe of the month is Lemon Chia Seed Muffins. Since I knew this recipe was coming up, I made these for my family this weekend and they were a hit – I made them on Saturday and they were gone on Sunday.

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins are a spin on a traditional lemon poppy seed muffin. The flavor is similar; though, not as sweet because this recipe uses less sugar. The biggest difference you might notice is this recipe calls for chia seeds instead of poppy seeds. We went with chia seeds for several reasons:

  1. Cost: At my local grocery store a 32 ounce bag of chia seeds costs $7.96. This seems like a high price at first, but when you consider this is about 70 tablespoons of chia seeds, you are only spending $0.11 per tablespoon. Contrast that with poppy seeds which are about $0.86 per tablespoon.
  2. Versatility: Now that you have this bag of chia seeds what are you supposed to do with it? Chia seeds are versatile and can be added to many recipes – baked goods, smoothies, and oatmeal. Or you can sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt. Seal your bag of chia seeds and store it in the refrigerator after opening.
  3. Nutrition: Chia seeds are different from poppy seeds nutritionally. The biggest difference is chia seeds have about twice as much fiber as poppy seeds. This is a bonus because most of us can use more fiber.

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/lemon-chia-seed-muffins/


Justine Hoover

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

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Nutrition Facts Label Gets an Update

 For the first time in 20 years, the Nutrition Facts label, found on packaged foods, has been significantly updated to make it easier to understand. The Nutrition Facts label can help you make food choices for good health. It is a valuable tool and we want to make it easy for you to understand all of the information it includes. Check out our video on Reading the Food Label.

The new label has some changes because needs and priorities related to food have changed in the last 20 years. Here is a summary of some of the changes:

  • The serving size is in a large, bold font and serving sizes have been updated to better reflect what people actually eat. Pay attention to the size and number of servings you eat or drink as it may be bigger or smaller than the serving size listed.
  • Calories are now shown in a larger, bolder font to better display this information. The thing to remember with calories is that you may consume more or less than is listed on the label based on the size and number of servings you eat.
  • Added sugars are included under total sugars to help consumers understand how much sugar has been added to the product. Some foods naturally contain sugar, like fruits and dairy. The new label helps you see how much sugar is naturally present and how much is added. Consuming too much added sugar can make it hard to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie recommendations.
  • Potassium and Vitamin D are now required on the label because people need to consume more of these nutrients. Vitamins A and C are no longer required on the label, since deficiencies of these vitamins are rare today. Calcium and iron are still required on the label.

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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Summer is a time for Food, Friends, and Fun – Find a Summer Meal site near you!

Summer break is almost here!  While learning does not end when school lets out, neither does the need for good nutrition.  Children who are well nourished in the summer return to school ready to learn in the fall. The USDA Summer Food Service Program, administered by the Iowa Department of Education and sponsored by local schools, cities, and community organizations, provides free meals to children when school is out.  

Over 500 summer meal sites, also known as Summer Meal MeetUps, will operate across Iowa from June through August.  All kids and teens, ages 18 and younger, can receive a meal for free, no identification or sign-in is required. In addition to a meal, many sites will offer fun learning and recreational activities, so kids stay active and spend time with friends.  

Plan for a nutritious summer today!  You can find a summer meal site near you, including in Iowa and in states across the US, using one of the methods below.  Meals, days and times vary by location, so check your local site for availability. Spread the word to family, friends, and neighbors!

Summer is a time for food, friends, and fun!  Take the stress out of providing nutritious meals in the summer months by participating at a site near you!  See you this summer!

Written by Stephanie Dross, Iowa Department of Education

Good or Bad? Finding Reliable Nutrition Information on the Web

The Keto diet, the DASH diet, the Paleo diet. What about Intermittent Fasting? With the start of a new year, many people set New Year’s resolutions with hopes of making some sort of change in their life. A top New Year’s resolution is to eat better and lose weight. And a popular source people look to for nutrition information is the internet. You can find reliable nutrition information on the web, but you need to be careful where you look and what websites you trust. Below are five tips for finding trustworthy nutrition information online.

  • Consider the source. Choose most often sites that have web addresses that end in .gov, .edu, or .org. These are most often websites for government agencies, educational institutions, and professional organizations.
  • Know the sites purpose. Is it to provide information or to sell something? If available, read the “About” section of the site to help determine the reliability of the information on the site.
  • Look for the evidence. Health decisions are best based on medical and scientific research, not on opinion. Look to see the sources of information for the website. Be cautious of sites that offer information from a single source.
  • Check the date. Health information is continually changing. Check the bottom of the page to find out how recently it was updated or reviewed.
  • Visit a health professional. Online health information should not replace talking with your physician or other health professionals.
  • Along with Spend Smart. Eat Smart., visit www.choosemyplate.gov and www.eatright.org for reliable nutrition information. Next week we will have guest blogger Rachel Wall share red flags to be aware of when considering different diets and how to find an eating pattern that is right for you.

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 Intuitive Eating?

I am sure you have heard that all foods fit… but can all foods really fit into a healthy diet? That is the million-dollar question.

Intuitive eating is about eating healthfully while still enjoying your favorite treat foods too! Eating this way will not jeopardize your weight or health and you can eat without feeling guilty. It takes the guesswork out of eating, making it a pleasant experience.

So what should I eat? How do I decide? Choosing a food based on taste, body function, and nutrient value causes a shift in how you decide what to eat and goes beyond what you may be craving.


Taste:  Are your taste buds satisfied?  Or are you feeling deprived? Slowing down and savoring each bite will help you decide how much you like something and is instrumental in choosing what to eat.

Body function: How is this food going to feel in your body? Will it energize you or will you crash later because it does not have enough protein, fiber and fat to sustain you? Do you feel nauseous? Choosing food that makes your body feel good is key!

Nutrient value: Is this food good for your body? Does it provide the nutrients that you need to exercise in an efficient manner; or give you enough brainpower to do well at school or work?

Choosing  a majority of your food based on taste, body function, and nutrient value honors your health and contributes to your overall well-being and a healthy relationship with food!

What about pizza, chips, sweets, or candy? How does this fit in?  “Junk food” (which I prefer to call treat food to take away the guilty complex associated with junk food) is important because it tastes good and it is everywhere. Therefore, it is unrealistic to believe it can be avoided long term. Being too restrictive with treat foods can end in a binge where it takes more of that food to satisfy a craving. All foods are on the same plane emotionally—there are no “good or bad foods” and foods should not make you feel guilty.  However, there are foods that are more nutrient dense than others and that is different.  Therefore, planning treat foods into your eating plan is important to give balance. If you are very rigid and only eat “healthy” foods, it is difficult to follow long-term.

In summary, the answer is Yes—all foods can fit. Remember, you do not have to eat a “perfect” diet to be healthy. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Becoming an intuitive eater takes time, don’t expect to perfect this overnight or in a month or two, otherwise this would be called a diet! This process may take longer than a fad diet (which doesn’t work in the end anyway) but is well worth the time to make peace with food and your body and as a bonus your body and mind will be healthier too!


For more information about intuitive eating, consider reading Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Written by Alison St. Germain, a Registered Dietitian with an MS in Nutrition and works with the Dietetic Internship Program at Iowa State University and is a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.

Condiments—are they good for you?

ketchup, mustard, bbq sauce

By Sarah Allen, Nutrition Program Student Assistant

One of the joys of summer is grilling. One thing that we may not think about is the nutrition of the condiments that we use for grilled foods. I looked at five condiments from my local grocery store and compared them. Take a look at what I found:

Tomato Ketchup Yellow Mustard Ranch Dressing Hot Sauce Barbecue Sauce
Serving 1 Tbsp. 1 tsp. 2 Tbsp. 1 tsp. 2 Tbsp.
Calories 20 0 140 0 35
Total Fat, g 0g 0g 14g 0g 0g
Sodium, mg 160mg 60mg 260mg 200mg 210mg
Carbohydrates (sugar), g 5g (4g) 0g (0g) 2g (1g) 0g (0g) 8g (7g)
Protein, g 0g 0g 0g 0g 0g
Vitamin A % DV** 2% 0% 0% 2% 4%
Vitamin C % DV** 2% 0% 2% 4% 0%
Calcium % DV** 0% 0% 0% N/A* 0%
Iron % DV** 0% 0% 0% N/A* 0%

*N/A: not mentioned on the nutrition label
**DV: Daily Value – calculated based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your needs may vary.

Most of these condiments are tasty, but it is important to keep in mind that they are:

  • High in sodium—this can cause high blood pressure
  • Have little to no protein
  • Have little to no vitamins and minerals
  • Have empty calories—this means calories that do not provide much nutrition

The serving size in the chart is what is listed on the label. If more than that is used, that would mean the sodium would be even higher. In general, we should eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. If you or your kids are like me when I was a kid, you may dunk everything in ketchup, ranch dressing, or barbecue sauce.

Consider using a small amount of these condiments and adding vegetables to your favorite foods to add more flavor (and color)! For example, add leafy lettuce, tomato and onion to your hamburger or chicken sandwich. Be sure to look for next week’s blog post about the cost of these condiments and some healthier ways to use them!

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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Lettuce Start Gardening!

Silly title -I know – but Spring has sprung here in Iowa and I am so excited to start growing some food on my back patio. Getting my herbs and vegetables planted is such a fun way to celebrate the warmer weather. Fresh veggies from the garden taste so good and growing your own food saves serious money.

I do not have space to plant a garden in the ground, so I use planters and pots on my patio. It is amazing how much food you can grow in a tiny space. There will be a point this summer when I can barely keep up with it!

Salad greens grow very well in containers. Here are some steps to get you started!

  1. Review the Iowa State University Container Vegetable Gardening Guide. It has all of the basics to help you get started.
  2. Choose a large pot (1 gallon minimum) with drainage holes.
  3. Put a layer of rocks or gravel in the bottom and then fill with potting soil.
  4. Use your finger to create a trench about one inch deep and sprinkle seeds about every inch in the trench. Repeat this process with an additional row or two leaving 4 inches between rows.
  5. Put your pot where bunnies and deer cannot get it. They love lettuce and they will eat it!
  6. Water the soil (not the leaves) as often as necessary to keep it moist. It does not need to be soaking wet, but should not get completely dry either. I typically water my vegetable containers every 1-2 days during the heat of the summer.
  7. After about three weeks, you will have leaves to harvest. Clip the leaves, leaving the plant base behind. The plant will grow more leaves!

This month our blogs are all about growing your own fruits and vegetables. We hope you’ll find some good ideas whether you’re just starting out or a certified green thumb. Please comment on our Facebook page or tweet us and let us know your favorite things to grow!

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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How Much Should My Child be Eating?

How much should my child be eating? This is a question that every parent asks themselves. Unfortunately, the answer is not simple. The answer depends on the age of the child, whether or not they are going through a growth spurt, the health status of the child, and other factors that we do not even understand.

When I am concerned about how well my children are eating, I go to sources I trust. First and foremost is their physician. She has followed them since they were born, so she knows them, she has tracked their growth, she has documented their health concerns over the years, and we trust her. If you have major concerns about your child’s growth or eating habits, go to a trusted health care provider first.

If you are simply curious about how much your child needs to be eating or if you want to make sure your child is on track, I have two other sources you can trust.

First is the Ellyn Satter Institute. On this website, you will find many resources on how to feed your child and how to make mealtime enjoyable for everyone in the family. There are even suggestions for children who are picky eaters. At our home, we follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding and it has worked for us.

Second is MyPlate. On this website, you will find many resources on what and how much to feed your child. This website focuses on choosing a variety of foods from the five food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. A general guideline that I try to follow is choose foods from three food groups at breakfast, four food groups at lunch and supper, and one or two food groups at snack times. On this website, you can check out each food group for a suggested amount that your child needs from that group each day. You can also find this information on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website in the Aisle by Aisle section.

Feeding children can be a challenge, but remember you are not alone. There are good resources out there to help you.

Justine Hoover

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

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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.

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Not Your Average Steak Sandwich

Not Your Average Steak SandwichOur recipe this month is Not Your Average Steak Sandwich. I am a huge fan of steak, but the steak is not the star of this recipe. To make this sandwich above average it is topped with sautéed onions and fresh spinach. The onions add delicious flavor and aroma to the sandwiches while the spinach adds refreshing crunch and nutrition.

Keep in mind that beef prices fluctuate, so, if steak is not in your price range right now, hold on to this recipe until you find a good deal. If you find a good price on steak while the weather is nice, grill the steak for these sandwiches. However, if you do not have a grill or if it is too cold outside, the steak can be sliced and fried in the same pan used to sauté the onions.

Not Your Average Steak Sandwich
Serving Size: 1 sandwich
Serves: 5
Cost Per Serving: $1.87

Not Your Average Steak Sandwich LabelIngredients: 

  • 1 medium onion, cut into slices or rings
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 pound lean steak, sliced into strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups spinach
  • 5 whole wheat hamburger buns


  1. Heat a small pan to medium. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add onions and sprinkle with sugar. Cook for 5–7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove onions from pan. Cover with foil to keep warm.
  2. Put the steak in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook the steak on both sides until heated through to 145°F.
  3. Assemble the sandwich:
    1. Place 1/4 cup spinach on one side of the hamburger bun.
    2. Place 1/5 of the steak on top of the spinach.
    3. Place 1/4 cup caramelized onions on top of the steak.
    4. Top with other half of bun.


  • When it is nice outside, grill the steaks instead of frying.
  • Toast the buns right before putting the sandwiches together.
  • Use the leftover spinach to make a Whole Meal Salad for lunch the next day.
  • Add cheese to make it like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

Justine Hoover

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

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