Monday, August 24, 2015

Back to School...Completing the Free and Reduced Meal Forms

This week is the end of summer and children are headed back to school.  Many important papers are sent home the first week of school.  Take special notice of the Free and Reduced Meal forms as they can help children who qualify receive free or reduced price meals at school.  Here are a few common questions and answers about Free and Reduced meals.

Q:  How do I know if my children qualify?
A:  If your family is receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, your child qualifies for free school meals.  Please contact your school to determine if you need to fill out an application. 

 Your children may also qualify for free and reduced meals:
  • If you are eligible for unemployment compensation.
  • If you are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). 
  • If you participate in WIC.
  • If your earnings are at or below the current Income Eligibility Guidelines 
Q:  What do I need to do to apply?
A:  To determine eligibility, complete a school meal application.  The school will process your application and let you know if you are eligible.

Q:  If my child qualified last year, do I need to apply again?
A:  Yes.  Those families who received free and reduced meals last year still need to complete a new form for this school year.

Q:  When do I need to submit the forms?
A:  Schools send free and reduced meal applications home at the beginning of each school year.  It is better to apply early, but you may apply at any time during the school year.  So, if your family income level should change during the school year, ask for an application from your school.

Have a great school year!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Recipe Spotlight: Berry Good Pizza

There is only one more week until school starts back for the kids and you may need to find something fun for them to do.  Let them help make a pizza!  Not just any pizza but a fruit pizza!  This is a great treat for kids to enjoy and they can add their favorite fruits too!  Berry Good Pizza can also be a healthy dessert option after meals.

Berry Good Pizza
Serves 6

100% whole wheat pizza crust or 12-ounce can of refrigerated pizza dough
1/4 cup apple butter
6 large strawberries, washed and sliced
1/2 cup blueberries
Cinnamon (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. If using dough, roll out pizza dough to desired size and thickness.
  3. Place crust on a baking sheet.
  4. Spread the apple butter over the crust.
  5. Arranged the strawberries and blueberries as desired on the crust.
  6. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon if desired.
  7. Bake on the center rack of the oven for about 15 minutes or until the crust is brown and crisp.
  8. Serve with a glass of low-fat milk or cup of yogurt.

Gather all of the ingredients.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash strawberries and blueberries.  Slice strawberries.

Spread apple butter over the crust.

Place strawberries and blueberries on top!  Bake for 15 minutes
or until crust is brown and crisp.


Cut pizza into 6 servings. Serve with low-fat milk or yogurt!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Healthy Eating Tips for Kids

All throughout the year, kids need to be reminded to make healthy food choices.  Have healthy foods on hand for kids to enjoy!

At School
School starts soon!  Encourage your children to pick fruits and veggies each day from the school lunches.  Remind them to drink milk with every meal, too.  If you pack their lunch, send sandwiches on whole wheat bread and give them sliced fruit and crunchy vegetables.  Limit chips, crackers, desserts, and candy.  Most kids eat too many of the high-calorie foods!

Snacks at Home
When kids go looking for snacks, they often take whatever is easiest to grab. Make sure to keep a bowl of fresh fruit on hand and cut up veggies in the refrigerator.  When kids are looking for snacks that are crunchy, think of celery and carrot sticks.  Salsa and hummus make great low-fat dips!

When kids want something sweet, encourage them to choose fruit (canned, dried, or fresh).  Having a variety of easy-to-eat fruits available will remind your children that "sweet" doesn't need to be candy or baked goods.

Best Drinks
Always remind your child that water is the healthiest choice for them to drink between meals.  Consider not bringing sodas in the house.  Growing bodies need water to keep them hydrated and milk to make strong bones.  Water and milk should be the go-to drinks in your house.

"Sometimes" Foods
Introduce the idea of "sometimes" foods to your kids.  These are foods that don't give many, if any, of the benefits that healthy foods have, like vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  "Sometimes" foods are chips, crackers, candy, sweets, baked goods, and soda.  Having those foods "sometimes" still lets your child enjoy them without having them become a daily part of what they eat.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Recipe Spotlight: Fabulous Fruit Muffins

Summer is the perfect time to find berries at the farmers' market!  The most common berries are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.  Try adding your favorite berries to muffins.  These muffins are easy to bake and kids will love them!  Kids can help make them by measuring out the ingredients, mixing, and pouring.  These muffins can be eaten for breakfast, a snack or dessert!

Fabulous Fruit Muffins
Servings: 9

1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk or plain low-fat yogurt
2 Tablespoons margarine, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1 cup berries, washed
Cooking oil spray

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray muffin tin with cooking oil spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.  Stir well until all ingredients are blended.
  3. In another bowl, combine buttermilk or yogurt, margarine, egg, and vanilla, if used.
  4. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just until mixed.
  5. Mix in berries and spoon batter evenly into 9 muffin cups.
  6. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Gather all ingredients.

Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.

Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.
In another bowl, mix low-fat plain yogurt, egg,
vanilla extract, and melted margarine in a separate bowl.

Pour wet mixture into dry mixture.
Stir ingredients together.

Continue to stir ingredients until entire mix is the same consistency.

Wash berries and slice if needed.  Add berries to muffin mixture.

Divide batter mixture evenly into 9 muffin cups.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Let muffins cool and enjoy!!!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Picnic Food Safety

A summer picnic is a great way to change up the scenery from your home dining table to eating with your friends and family in the great outdoors.  Picnics can be at a local park or even in your own backyard!  Whether your picnic is steps from your home or miles away, there are some important food safety tips to keep you and your family happy, healthy and safe!

Picnic Basics 101
Here are a few things you may always want to keep on hand for any and all picnics.
  • Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site.  Pack clean, wet, disposable or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
  • Bring hand sanitizer if soap and drinkable water is not available at the site.  (Cleaning is different than sanitizing). 
  • Bring plenty of ice or frozen gel packs.
  • Bring clean plates, utensils, and serving utensils.
What I Need to Think about for Picnic Day
  • Pack foods that will not spoil as quickly during Maryland's hot summers.  Examples of food that would spoil are hard boiled eggs, deli meats, and peeled and cut fruits and vegetables.   Examples of some foods that would NOT spoil as fast are nuts, dried fruit, whole fruits and veggies, and crackers.
  • If you do packs foods that can spoil, pack only enough food so that there will be no leftovers.
  • If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within one hour of purchase when the temperature is above 90 degrees.
  • Buy an insulated cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs that you can keep foods in that easily spoil.  Your family may want to have two coolers, one for food and one for drinks.
  • Do not leave foods out in the sun.  Keep the cooler in the shade.  Serve food quickly from the cooler and return it fast.  Food should not sit out of the cooler over an hour in 90 degree weather.
  • If you are planning to grill, visit our previous blog on grilling food safety.
  • Do not forget to unpack the cooler as soon as you return home.  Refrigerate leftover meats and salads which have stayed cold (40 degrees and lower).  Discard the food if they have become warm.
Do not forget to bring a garbage bag to clean up after your awesome picnic!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Healthy Eating While on Vacation

It's vacation time!  Time to relax, time to get away from your daily routine and enjoy a new adventure.  Whether your family is going to visit grandma, to the beach or to a special destination, you do not need to leave your healthy eating habits at home.  Plan ahead and follow these tips for healthy travels.
  • Pack your own healthy snacks to go.  Have pretzels, trail mix, popcorn, chopped veggies, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds in the car for those family snack breaks as you travel.  These filling snacks will keep everyone happy and save you time and money.
  • Be water friendly.  Staying hydrated is important!  Make water your main drink while you are on the go.  Keep your cooler packed with ice cold water instead of the sugary juice drinks and teas with added sugar.
  • Find a farmers' market or grocery store.  Once you have reached your destination, pick up fresh fruits and veggies, dairy foods, whole grains, nuts and seeds that can be enjoyed as a snack or as a breakfast alternative during your stay.
  • Choose a sit-down restaurant instead of fast food.  Even though this takes more time, the menu will allow for healthier food choices.  You will be able to order your food broiled rather than fried.  Ask for salad dressing on the side and choose salads, fruits, and vegetables instead of fried side dishes.

Try our Trail Mix recipe to take on your next traveling adventure!

Trail Mix
serves 8      serving size - 1/2 cup

1 1/2 cups unsweetened breakfast cereal  (cheerios, chex, corn flakes)
1 1/2 cups pretzels
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/3 cup sunflower kernels

  1. Measure and mix ingredients together.
  2. Serve in a small bag or cup.
  3. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Water for Healthy Bodies

Warm temperatures are here to stay for a while, so it's important to remember to give our bodies plenty of water to help stay cool and hydrated during these busy summer days.

Why do we need to drink water?
Every single cell in our body has water in it.  It is an essential building block for everything our body does.  Our brains and hearts are made up of 70% water, and our muscles are 80% water.  All of our body fluids, such as blood, saliva, and spinal fluids, contain water.  Even our bones have water in them -- about 30% of our skeleton is water!

Our bodies need water for sweating to keep us cool, acting as a transport to deliver nutrients, helping to flush out body wasted through urination, and lubricating our joints so we can move around easily.

How do I get water?
All of us can meet our bodies' water needs through drinking fluids.  Luckily, our body lets us know when it needs more water by giving us a feeling of thirst.  We can also get water from the foods that we eat.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are about 85% water, plus they have important nutrients that our body needs.

Water is a delicious drink on its own, and it is what our body needs most often.  Create your own refreshing drink by adding sliced fruit such as lemon, lime, oranges, strawberries, and even watermelon, or fresh herbs like spearmint to a glass of water.  Slices of fruit and herbs add very few calories, keeping this a very healthy drink.

If you like soda but know you should limit sugary drinks,  create your own using the recipe Fizzy and Fruity Water.  It's a fun one to make with the kids because they get to see lots of bubbles, while having a healthy drink.  Enjoy!