Craving Comfort Foods

Casserole with meat and potatoes

In the fall, we crave warm, hearty foods like cheesy casseroles and hearty soups. Often, though, these “comfort foods” are high in fat, sodium, and calories.

The next time you make your favorite “comfort foods,” try these tips to make them healthier and even more enjoyable:

  • Add extra vegetables of all types—dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables—without added sauces, fats, or salt. Double the vegetables in a soup or casserole recipe to add extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Switch up your grains, making at least half of your grains whole grain. Like rice? Try replacing white rice with brown rice in your recipe. This month’s recipe uses brown rice.
  • Choose reduced-fat dairy foods, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, in casseroles and cream soups. Reduced-fat cheeses, for example, have less fat but just as much favor and melt just like full-fat cheese.
  • Use lean protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products. Cooking on a budget? Canned meats are just as nutritious, cheaper, and easier to use in casseroles.

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, bit.ly/3kf72S4.

September Is Breakfast Month!

Bowl of yogurt, granola, and blueberries

Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day. Yet many skip it. If you’re someone who skips breakfast, try to change that as you get into your fall routine.

Breakfast provides the following:

  • mental alertness
  • important nutrients
  • reduction of chronic disease risk

Remember, a meal is simply a combination of foods from at least three food groups. Thus, breakfast doesn’t have to be huge. Here are some simple, nutrient-rich ideas:

  • Yogurt parfait with berries and low fat granola.
  • Whole wheat tortilla spread with peanut butter rolled around a banana.
  • Coffee Cup Scramble with eggs, milk, and cheese (Recipe, iowaegg.org, from Iowa Egg Council). Enjoy with a slice of toast and a cup of juice.
  • Whole grain cereal, topped with fruit and low-fat milk.

Check out more ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 6 Tips for Better Breakfasts, eatright.org.

Source: Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative, mdpi.com.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Serving Size: 1 muffin | Serves: 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat four
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup oil (canola, olive, or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup zucchini (washed and shredded; about 1/2 large unpeeled zucchini)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a muffin tin.
  2. Whisk together four, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk together applesauce, oil, milk, banana, and brown sugar in a separate bowl.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened.
  5. Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips.
  6. Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cups. Bake until a tester (knife or toothpick) comes out clean (about 18 minutes).

Nutrition information per serving:

160 calories, 6g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 140mg sodium, 26g total carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 9g sugar, 3g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate. edu

July is National Watermelon Month!

“Watermelon—it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face!”—Enrico Caruso

watermelon

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.

Easy ways to enjoy watermelon:

  • Cut up bites of fresh watermelon.
  • Dip in yogurt.
  • Blend into a slushy or smoothie.
  • Freeze and enjoy as a fruit popsicle.

Source: Wide World of Watermelon—Registered Dietician Toolkit, www.watermelon.org

Chewy Granola Bars

Serving Size: 1 bar | Serves: 24

Ingredients

  • 2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 2 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 20 mini pretzels, crushed
  • 3/4 cup pancake syrup, maple syrup, or honey
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Combine oats, cereal, and crushed pretzels in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Pour syrup or honey into a microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir in peanut butter until combined. Microwave for 1 minute more. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Pour syrup mixture over oat mixture. Stir until completely coated.
  4. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray and pour mixture into pan. Press mixture firmly into the pan using waxed paper or the back of a spoon.
  5. Allow mixture to cool completely to room temperature. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Nutrition information per serving: 100 calories, 3.5g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0.5g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 85mg sodium, 15g total carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 3g sugar, 2g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Serving Size: 1 muffin | Serves: 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with liners or spray with cooking spray.
  2. Stir together whole wheat four, white flour, sugar, baking powder, and chia seeds in a medium bowl.
  3. Mix together milk, oil, eggs, and lemon juice in a small bowl.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Divide the batter into muffin tins.
  5. Bake until the muffins are golden and a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. This should take about 16–18 minutes.
  6. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Tip: Use 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice in place of the 1/3 cup lemon juice.

Nutrition information per serving:
180 calories, 8g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 30mg cholesterol, 80mg sodium, 26g total carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 10g sugar, 4g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu

Fun Ways to Eat Chia Seeds

Breakfast including chia muffins, eggs, fruit, and milk

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.

Source: American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS), https://www.aocs.org/.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serving Size: 1 stuffed pepper | Serves: 5

Ingredients:

  • 5 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, or green)
  • 1 pound ground beef (90% lean), uncooked
  • 3/4 cup brown rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes (14 oz), low sodium
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut a circular hole in the tops of the bell peppers. Remove seeds and membrane and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients and stir until completely mixed. Fill the bell peppers with meat mixture.
  3. Place the stuffed bell peppers in a large stockpot on the stove with the tops facing up. Add 1 inch of water to the bottom of the pot and cover.
  4. Place heat on medium, keeping covered for 30–40 minutes until rice is done. Serve.

Nutrition information per serving:
277 calories, 8g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 57mg cholesterol, 66mg sodium, 29g total carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 4g sugar, 21g protein

See how to make this recipe and more on USDA’s MyPlate Kitchen YouTube, bit.ly/3s09zjQ.

Source: MyPlate, www.myplate.gov/myplate-kitchen/recipes

Start Simple with MyPlate

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Source: MyPlate, www.myplate.gov

Energy Bites

Energy bites on sheet pan with milk

Serving Size: 1 energy bite | Serves: 25

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups oats (old fashioned or quick)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut fakes
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Cover a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet.
  3. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  4. Roll each drop of mixture into a ball. Place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition information per serving:

90 calories, 5g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 25mg sodium, 10g total carbohydrate, 2g fber, 5g sugar, 2g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate. edu

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