Now is the Time

Today I would like to share about mindful eating and keeping families healthy. This is especially relevant for these interesting times while we stay close to home because of COVID-19. Many of us are well aware of money-saving strategies and have ideas of how we’d eat better or cook more if we just had time.  We’ve put those ideas in our “back pockets” for the time when we REALLY need them. With the uncertainty of how long the social distancing and disrupted lifestyle may go on, I think it’s a great opportunity to employ some of these great ideas. The gift of time makes it possible to try things that just didn’t seem possible before due to hectic schedules. See if any of these ideas would work for your family!

  1. Include structure in your day with planning set meal times.  Along with that, limit between meal snacking to set times with limited portions to ensure a good appetite at when meal-time rolls around. 
  2. Plan your menus for an entire week, along with a grocery list. Let everyone be part of the process! Set some ground rules for planning, like including items from at least 4 food groups at each meal.  What a great opportunity for nutrition education in the kitchen! Find out more about the food groups at
  3. Trying a new recipe for something that you would usually purchase as a processed food, like chicken strips, refried beans, or maybe using up that leftover can of pumpkin in your cupboard and trying Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes
  4. Cook together and learn some new skills. Check out our variety of videos to get started. 
  5. Get inspired by watching a cooking show as a family and plan a dish from it into your weekly menu.
  6. Eat together as a family at the table, and make plans for sharing responsibilities of setting the table, serving, cleaning up and cooking.
  7. Explore the different recipe categories on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe page together.
  8. Inventory your cupboards, freezer, and refrigerator and brainstorm together about what you could use to create a meal.
  9. Have fun together! 

What better time could there be than now to change up old habits and push re-set on healthy eating at home? If you start now, you just might have time to adopt some new, lifechanging behaviors before it’s back to “business as usual” and the hustle and bustle. Practicing new behaviors when we can be mindful and supportive of each other can be a great positive move toward the habits that you’ve only dreamt of in the past.  

Judy Dittmar is a Registered Dietitian and mom with a wealth of experience in the classroom, kitchen, and garden. She enjoys hiking and running state park trails, and generally being outdoors.

Chocolate cupcakes

Justine Hoover

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

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Work Out at Home with our New Videos

Last week on the blog I shared about our new Move tab on the website which includes two At-home Workout videos. One of the main reasons people say they aren’t physically active is because of a lack of time. Our new videos are less than 20 minutes long and can be done in the comfort of your home. I am your workout leader and my friends Shannon, Katy and Justine join in along the way. I promise you will have some fun as you get moving along with us.

The first video is a Cardio Interval workout that helps you meet the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week. The workout is 14 minutes long and is a tabata style workout. That means you do 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. There are five different moves and each move is repeated four times. Lower impact versions of each exercise are also shown in the videos so you can modify the workout to meet your needs.

The second video is a Beginner Strength Training video that takes you through a series of exercises to work each muscle group. All you need is a pair of dumbbells. If you don’t have dumbbells you can also use water bottles or cans of food. Each exercise is done 12 times and modifications for each exercise are also shown.

If you are looking to be more active or find new exercises to try, these videos are for you! You can also find the videos on our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app.

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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I Like to Move it Move it!

Today I’m excited to share with you a new feature that was added to our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website! We added a section on physical activity. For good health its important to eat well and move our bodies. Now you can find information about both on our website.

The new section includes two short workout videos, information on the benefits of physical activity, and how much is recommended. There is also an Activity Planner that can help you plan your activity for the week.

Be sure to check out the new Move tab on the website!

Next week I’ll share more about the two workout videos.

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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Spice it up!

When creating recipes for Spend Smart. Eat Smart. three things we keep in mind are the flavor, the cost, and the nutrition content. We want our recipes to taste good, provide good nutrition, and be relatively low cost to make. To determine if our recipes provide good nutrition, each recipe must meet our nutrition guidelines. One guideline we pay particular attention to is sodium. The sodium level in our recipes needs to be low to moderate. The limit varies depending on if the recipe is for a:

  • casserole style dish – 700 mg or below per serving
  • entrée – 400 mg or below per serving
  • side dish or snack – 200 mg or below per serving

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day and move toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. However, on average, Americans eat more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day.

In order to meet our sodium guidelines, we use various spices to add flavor to our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes so less salt is needed. The spices we most often use include black pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, and Italian seasoning blend. If you want to keep just a few spices on hand, these would be good ones to start with.  

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using spices:

  • Use them with care, especially if you are not familiar with their flavor. You can always add more spices, but you can’t take them away so start with a small amount.
  • For chilled foods, such as salads or dips, add seasonings several hours ahead so flavors can blend.
  • Store spices in tightly covered containers in a cool, dry, dark place (not the refrigerator). Avoid placing spices above the stove since heat can destroy the flavor.

Next week Christine will share some tips on buying spices and making your own seasoning blends.

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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A Brand New Look for Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

sses1-web-new-lookOver the past several months the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team has been working behind the scenes to update and improve our website. Our goal was to make the site more modern, simpler to navigate and functional on all of your devices. We are proud to share that our new website is live and ready for your use.

The new mobile-friendly website is home to:

  • More than 150 recipes that are delicious, inexpensive and easy to prepare
  • How-to videos featuring recipes, kitchen organization tips and basic food prep techniques
  • Strategies for saving money in each part of the grocery store
  • Meal planning templates and resources

The web address has changed to Attempts to access the site at its old address will automatically redirect to the new site.

Join in on the fun with tasty eating and savvy shopping – visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart. today!

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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