Have you ever started a diet? You may start off strong but before long are back to your old habits. Why does that happen? For many, the diet is often extreme or complicated. For others, we try to change too much all at once.
Ditch the diet mindset. Instead, try a balanced approach to food and eating. When we have a realistic approach, we can improve our health, supply our body the nutrients it needs, and be satisfied with what and how much we eat.
Start by adding one healthy habit at a time. A great place to begin is the MyPlate healthy eating food plan:
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables—think variety and make it colorful.
Make half your grains whole grains (e.g., whole wheat bread, oatmeal).
Choose low-fat and fat-free dairy products.
Vary your protein—poultry, seafood, meat, eggs, nuts, and beans.
Set realistic and achievable goals, and remember that if you slip up one day not to dwell on it; just move on with your health goals in mind.
For more information on Key Nutrients for health, download our Key Nutrients handout, store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/4184.
Plant-based diets are growing in popularity. Eating plant foods may protect from chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
The goal of a plant-based diet is to consume more whole plant foods—like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains—that will provide adequate nutrition overall.
Some people may choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, while others may just eat one meatless meal a week. Eating a vegetarian diet means not eating flesh foods (meat, poultry, seafood, wild game) and may or may not exclude eggs or dairy products. A vegan diet excludes all flesh foods, eggs, and dairy products and may also exclude honey.
There are many plant-based foods that make eating a plant-based diet easy. Check out this list of meat alternative products, www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1021p42.shtml, on the market.
Be a smart shopper, though! Choose mostly whole and minimally processed food from a variety of food groups to have a well-balanced diet.
Serving Size: 1 cup chicken curry, 1/3 cup rice | Serves: 4
1 cup instant brown rice
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste*
1 cup light coconut milk (about 1/2 of 13.5 ounce can)
1 cup chopped spinach
Cook instant brown rice according to package directions. Set aside.
Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces.
Spray a large frying pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add chicken, onion, carrots, ground black pepper, and salt. Cook over medium high heat for 8 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in curry paste and coconut milk. (*This dish is spicy. For less spice, use less curry paste or add a little more coconut milk.)
Simmer for 5–10 minutes until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.
Stir in spinach. Simmer for 3 minutes more, stirring frequently.
Serve curry over brown rice.
Nutrition information per serving:
290 calories, 7g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 85mg cholesterol, 390mg sodium, 29g total carbohydrates, 3g dietary fiber, 5g total sugars, 28g 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
1 can (14.5 ounces) no-sodium-added diced tomatoes or 2 chopped tomatoes
1 bunch kale (about 7 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.
Add onion, carrot, garlic. Cook 5 minutes.
Add water to pot. Heat to boiling.
Rinse lentils in colander with water. Add to pot, simmer 20 minutes. Do not drain.
Add chicken broth, dried basil or Italian seasoning, and tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5–10 minutes.
Rinse kale leaves; cut out the main stems and discard. Cut leaves into 1” pieces.
Stir kale, salt, and ground black pepper into lentil mixture. Return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover, simmer for 3 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving: 200 calories, 5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 170mg sodium, 29g total carbohydrate, 12g fiber, 4g sugar, 11g 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
In the last two years, Americans have become more interested in “functional foods” to boost their immune systems. Unfortunately, there is no one magic food that will make you invincible to colds, flu, and COVID. Over the long run, though, two eating habits can cut your risk of catching contagious illnesses.
Limit foods high in sugar, salt, and/or saturated fat. Too much of these can keep your white blood cells from working as well as they should. Drink water, unsweetened tea, or milk more often instead of pop. Snack on fruits or vegetables; choose baked chips over regular; enjoy whole grain granola bars over cookies. Eat baked or grilled meats instead of fried.
Aim for at least 4–5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Fruits and vegetables are the main source of the vitamins and minerals you need to resist illnesses. For example, the tomatoes and kale in this month’s soup recipe give you lots of the antioxidant vitamins A and C. The lentils are rich in zinc, which is also important to immune health.
Interested in finding out more about foods and health habits that strengthen your immune system? Visit Today’s Dietitian, www.todaysdietitian.com, to read an excerpt from The Family Immunity Cookbook.
Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Add vegetables and sauté until tender (3–5 minutes). Reduce heat to medium low.
While vegetables are cooking, beat eggs and milk together in a medium sized bowl.
Stir cheese into eggs.
Turn oven broiler to high.
Pour egg mixture over vegetables. Cover with a lid. Cook until eggs are nearly set—about 6 minutes. Do not stir and do not remove lid.
Remove lid from skillet and place skillet in the oven. Broil until eggs are completely set and lightly browned (2–3 minutes).
Nutrition information per serving: 190 calories, 12g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 295mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 5g total carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 3g sugar, 14g protein
This information is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.
Fall is the time for mixed dishes—salads, casseroles, stir fries, soups, and stew—in which everything is tossed together. This is how to make mixed dishes healthy and delicious.
First, make sure to include at least three different food groups from MyPlate, myplate.gov/.
Then add color. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables add visual appeal as well as favor and texture to casseroles and stews. Add sautéed vegetables to your grilled cheese sandwich. Toss in dried berries and roasted vegetables to your salad. Or sauté your favorite vegetables (such as bell peppers, mushrooms, or onions), add eggs, and bake.
Mix it up. Look for recipes in which half the ingredients are nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, or beans. Use whole-grain pastas. Have meat play a supporting role.
Change up your protein. Try different types of ground meats in meat loaf and in pasta sauce. Add seafood (like shrimp, tuna, or salmon) to a stir-fry or pasta dish. Mix up your chili with beans and vegetables in place of ground meat.
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.
Vegetables are part of a healthy diet. However, they can also be a source of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Use these food safety tips to protect yourself and your family.
Always wash hands with soap and water before you start to prepare vegetables.
Use clean equipment, including cutting board and knives.
Wash all produce even if the skin will be peeled. If a produce item is labeled ready to eat, washing is not recommended and could increase risk of illness.
Wash produce under running water. A scrub brush can help in cleaning produce. Soap and vegetable rinses are not necessary. If soaking is required to loosen dirt, make sure to finish by rinsing under cool or warm running water.