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

Personalize Your Plate

Plate, fork, and knife on table

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Sources: Eat Right, bit.ly/3tHoP6T, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, bit.ly/3jw8NIv

Three Reasons to Have Soup for Supper!

Dinner of soup, salad, and bread
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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/.

Source: Soup consumption is associated with a lower dietary energy density and a better diet quality in US adults, lib.dr.iastate.edu/fshn_ag_pubs/120/

Time to Spill the Beans

Variety of dry beans

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.

Sources:
USDA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020, health.gov
Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu

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