“Watermelon—it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face!”—Enrico Caruso
Watermelon is delightful, no doubt. It’s a sweet, low-calorie, fat-free food. Did you know watermelon is also a good source of vitamins A, B6, and C? Vitamin A promotes good eyesight. Vitamin B6 helps make antibodies and maintains blood sugar and nerve function. Vitamin C helps heal wounds.
Watermelon is a good source of potassium and magnesium, which aid in muscle and heart function. It’s 92% water, making it an excellent thirst quencher. Finally, watermelon is high in lycopene. Lycopene reduces blood pressure and cancer risk and maintains healthy skin.
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds of the chia plant, Salvia hispanica. They are a fun way to add fiber, texture, and extra nutrition to your foods.
Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart and brain health. They also have antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic illnesses. The seeds contain lots of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. The mature seeds are white or black. Brown seeds are immature seeds and don’t have the same nutrient composition.
Chia seeds are versatile. They have little favor of their own, so they don’t compete with the other favors in a dish. They swell up and form a gel, yet they continue to have a slight crunch. Prepare chia seeds by first soaking a quarter cup of them in one cup of water for 20–30 minutes. Then try one of the following:
Adding chopped fruit to them
Sprinkling them on salads or stirring them into yogurt
Adding them to smoothies or juice
Making chia muffins (see recipe) or chia pudding
Explore other fun ways to eat chia seeds at Healthline, https://www.healthline.com.
The newly updated MyPlate website can help you put the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 into practice. To get started, go to MyPlate, www.myplate. gov. Find out if you are making every bite count by taking the MyPlate Quiz. You will receive the following free, personalized resources:
Start Simple with MyPlate app will help you build healthier eating habits by setting goals. You can also sync your quiz results with the app.
MyPlate Plan provides a personalized plan for what and how much to eat from each food group. Join challenges, track your progress, and earn badges to celebrate successes.
MyPlate Kitchen puts your MyPlate plan into action using healthy, budget-friendly recipes.
Make Every Bite Count and Start Simple with MyPlate at MyPlate, www.myplate.gov.
March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate.” There is no one-size-fts-all when it comes to nutrition. Everyone is unique! Each of us has different tastes, traditions, and budgets.
Personalize your plate to make sure every bite counts by choosing “nutrient-dense” foods. Nutrient-dense foods are those that are high in nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, but not very high in calories. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests the following:
Start with personal preferences. When choosing nutrient-dense foods, be sure to think about the healthy foods you and your family truly enjoy. If you and your family enjoy the food you eat, you will be more likely to retain your healthy eating habits over time.
Celebrate your food traditions! For example, if your family traditionally enjoys eating spaghetti and meatballs, make the same dish using less sodium and saturated fat. Use low-sodium sauce. Use leaner beef or ground turkey for the meatballs. Choose whole grain pasta. With a few small changes, you can still enjoy any traditional dish.
Consider your budget. Healthy eating can be budget friendly and delicious. The ISU Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu, is a great source for easy, low-cost recipes.
People who eat more soup usually have a healthier diet. An Iowa State University study found that soup-eaters consume less fat and more fber and vitamins than nonsoup-eaters. This is probably because most soups contain a variety of vegetables.
Soup is flling. Because most soups are high in water and fber, they help you feel fuller longer. For this reason, soup helps people maintain a healthy weight. To avoid excess calories, enjoy broth- or tomato-based soups, not soups with cream, cheese, or butter.
Soup is easy. It can be as simple as opening a can and turning on the microwave. Even canned soup can be a healthy meal, if it’s low sodium. You can pep up the favor of low-sodium canned soup with onion or garlic powder, oregano, basil, turmeric, or a dash of hot sauce. You can also add your favorite frozen vegetables.
For more reflections on soup and the joys of healthy foods, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart., blogs.extension.iastate.edu/spendsmart/tag/soup/.
If you have dry or canned beans in your pantry, you have the start to an easy, budget-friendly meal. Beans are high in iron, zinc, potassium, folate, and fiber—nutrients missing in the diet of many Americans. Beans are readily available and an inexpensive source of protein. Adults should eat at least 1 1/2 cups of beans per week. They come in many sizes and varieties, including kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), black-eyed peas, split peas, and lentils. There is a type of bean to please everyone!
One of the easiest ways to prepare dried beans is in the slow cooker. Simply rinse beans and remove any small stones, dirt, or withered beans. Then combine 1 pound of dried beans (2 cups) with 8 cups of water in the slow cooker. Lastly, cook on low for 6–8 hours (or overnight), until beans are soft.