Monday, August 18, 2014

Starting the School Year Off on the Right Foot

School is starting very soon!  As the kids are getting back to school, start the year off on the right foot by making healthy choices that can last all year long.  Follow these ideas for healthy choices to help your child be more focused and get the most out of their school day. 
  1. Eat Breakfast!  Eating breakfast each morning helps your child start the day ready to learn.  Whether at home or school, breakfast is important.   Breakfast will help your child feel less
    hungry throughout the school day.  Try our breakfast ideas during the school year. 
  2. Add fruits and veggies to your plate.  Fruits and veggies have many vitamins and minerals that help keep our bodies healthy.  Encourage your child to eat a fruit and veggie at lunch each day.  Look at the school lunch menu the night before to guide your child to choose a fruit and veggie that they may like or want to try.
  3. Snack healthy.  Children are working hard all day as they are learning, so they are often hungry when they get home.  Have healthy snacks on hand to eat before dinner is ready.  Need quick and easy snack ideas?  Check out our previous blog post on 5 Types of Healthy Snacks for a Busy Lifestyle. 
  4. Be Active Everyday!  As school starts and schedules fill up, it can sometimes be tough to get physical activity.  Set aside time each night with your family to take a walk, play a game of catch or get creative by making up a new game inside.  Physical activity also helps children use the energy they stored up from sitting in class all day.
  5. Get enough sleep.  Is it is important that your child gets enough sleep to feel well-rested in the morning.  A well-rested student stays healthy and is ready to learn!
Have a great school year!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Stop Wasting Food!

Most people don't have extra money to throw away, but many of us end up throwing food away.  That's just money lost! Here are some tips to get the most from your food dollars and ways to stop wasting food:
  1. Don't buy more food than you can eat before it goes bad.
    • This is especially true for fresh fruits and vegetables.  Eating fresh fruits and veggies is great for a healthy diet, but fresh foods won't last forever. Many fruits can be frozen and eaten later.  Try keeping a zipper-sealed plastic freezer bag in your freezer for fruit than can be used to make smoothies.
    • If you know you can't eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, consider buying bagged frozen or canned ones instead; these will last much longer. 
  2. Take advantage of leftovers!
    • Left-over main dishes are a great way to stretch your food dollars, but you need to remember to eat them!  Be sure to keep left-overs in the front of the refrigerator (not pushed to the back, where they can get lost).  Put left-overs in containers that are easy to take for lunches. 
    • Freeze extra main dishes if you know you aren't going to eat them in a day or two.
    • Remember to throw left-overs out after four days.
  3. Don't buy more than you need.
    • Even though many foods are cheaper when you buy in bulk or in larger packages, they aren't really saving you any money if you end up throwing part of it away.  Pay attention to how much your family really does eat of certain foods and buy accordingly.  Don't be tempted by buy-on-get-one offers, if the product isn't something your family will eat before it goes bad.
    • Consider freezing part of your loaf of bread, too, if you know your family won't go through a whole loaf before it starts to mold.  Be sure to use freezer bags and don't just toss the loaf into your freezer in the plastic bread bad that it comes in -- those plastic bags are not meant to keep freezers from drying out your bread.
  4. Treat meat right!
    • Buying meat on sale is a great way to save money, but you need to either use it or freeze it within a few days of buying it.  Again, be sure to use freezer bags for your meat to avoid freezer burn.  Meat that is only wrapped in plastic is not ready to toss in the freezer!
  5. Eat up the oldest foods first.
    • Watch those expiration dates!  A good grocery store will rotate its stock, so that the oldest foods are up front and the newest foods are at the back.  You should do the same thing in your pantry so that your family eats up older foods first.  And always try to buy foods with an expiration date well in the future so you have plenty of time to eat it up.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Any Way You Slice It, Watermelons Are a Treat!

May to August is the perfect time to enjoy a family favorite treat:  watermelon!  Since it is the peak season, grocery stores and farmers' markets will have a huge supply of this delicious, juicy fruit at a low cost.  Watermelon is also a tasty, low-calorie way to stay hydrated in the summer heat and is full of nutrition that is important for your family's health.

How to Select:
  • Look for a watermelon with bright skin, firm, and free of cuts
  • Choose one that feels heavy for it's size.  "Water" melons contain more than 90% water and the ripest ones have the most water.
  • The underside should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground to ripen.
  • Cut watermelon will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

How to Prepare:
  • Wash watermelon thoroughly.
  • Cut watermelon in half and remove the rind to eat.
How to Serve:
  • Cut watermelon for a refreshing snack in the summer.
  • Let kids use a melon baller to scoop watermelon out and make melon kabobs.
  • Make homemade Watermelon Pops
  • Try cooling down with a Cool Melon Slushie

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Recipe Spotlight: Summer Stuffed Tomatoes

Summertime is a great time to go to the Farmers' Market for plenty of fresh fruits and veggies.  Peaches, tomatoes, and corn are fresh and delicious right now.  Our Summer Stuffed Tomatoes are a simple dish that is quick and easy and the whole family will love.

Make them to take to summer cookouts or have as part of your family dinner.  The kids can help make them by washing, cutting, and mixing the fruit and veggies!

Our recipe calls for 8 tomatoes, but we cut it in half to only make 4.  You can adjust the recipe if you need to.

Summer Stuffed Tomatoes
Serves: 8 

8 ripe tomatoes, washed
2 ripe peaches, washed, peeled and chopped
3 cucumbers, washed, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 ears of fresh corn kernels, washed or 1 can corn drained and rinsed
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, washed and chopped or 1 teaspoon dried basil

  1. Slice off tops of tomatoes and scoop out seeds and flesh.
  2. Chop the tomato seeds and flesh and place in a bowl.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and spices to bowl.
  4. Stir to combine and chill in refrigerator. 
  5. Divide filling equally in stuffed tomatoes.

Gather all ingredients.

Cut the top off of the tomato.  Peel the peach and the cucumber. 
Take the flesh out of the cucumber.
Chop basil.

Remove flesh from tomatoes.
Mix together corn, peaches, cucumbers,
chopped tomatoes, vegetable oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and basil.

Place mixture in the refrigerator to let it chill.

Fill tomatoes with chilled ingredients.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Healthy Grill Recipes

Did you know that many in-season fruits and veggies can be grilled?  Squash, zucchini, mushrooms, peaches, corn, and asparagus all are great choices of foods to try on the grill.  Grilled fruits and veggies are bursting with flavor and they also pack a nutritional punch, providing key vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.  They're also the perfect way to add a variety of colors to your meal.

Grilling fruits and veggies are very easy!  Try these steps to grill your favorite veggies for dinner!
  1. Choose your favorite combination of veggies like squash, zucchini, onions, and bell peppers.
  2. Chop veggies up into bite-size pieces.
  3. Make a bowl or pan out of aluminum foil.  Add veggies to aluminum foil.
  4. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil or cooking spray to veggies.  Sprinkle with a seasoning of your choice like pepper or other dried herbs.
  5. Cook on the grill 5-10 minutes.
Try grilling fruit, too!  Try this recipe for a nice dessert idea from the grill!

Grilled Fruit

Yield:  3 Servings

1 cup pineapple chunks
1 peach (cubed)
1 banana (sliced)

1.  Place fruit chunks on a skewer to make kabobs.
2.  Grill or broil on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden.

Note:  If using wooden skewers, thoroughly soak skewers in water prior to using to prevent burning (approximately 30 minutes).

Recipe from USDA SNAP-Ed Recipe Finder

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tips for Staying Hydrated in the Heat

On hot days during the summer, it's really important to stay hydrated.  Our bodies need to keep hydrated to help the heart and muscles work properly.  Try these tips this summer to keep hydrated:
  1. Drink enough water to prevent feeling thirsty.
  2. When doing any type of physical activity, drink water before, during and after the activity.
  3. Eat five cups of fruits and veggies a day.  Fruits and veggies have some water in them.
  4. Keep a reusable water bottle on hand and refill to have water always available.
  5. Make your own Homemade Sports Drink that has less calories and healthier for you!
Have trouble drinking water?  Try adding flavor with lemons, limes, berries or other fruits.  Adding fresh or frozen fruits can add flavor with adding extra sugar and calories.  

Enjoy the summer and keep hydrated when being outside!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Snack Healthy This Summer

During the summer months children spend more time at home.  Keep healthy snacks on hand to give them the energy they need to play and have fun.  In-season fruits and veggies that are now available in grocery stores and at farmers' markets are good snack choices.  Try these tips for healthy snacking.

  • Grab and Go Snacks.  Keep sliced vegetables in the refrigerator and serve with dips like hummus or low-fat salad dressing.  Other great grab and go snacks include pretzels, air popped popcorn, trail mix, or peanut butter with crackers.
  • Yummy Fresh Fruits.  In season berries, pears, peaches, and melons as well as bananas and apples can provide an easy "grab and go" snack.  Always wash fresh produce before eating or cooking.
  • Swap out the Sugar. Make your snacks healthier by replacing sugary ingredients with healthier choices.  Top a graham cracker with low-fat vanilla yogurt and sliced strawberries.  Place another graham cracker on top to make Strawberry S'mores.   Blueberries and sliced peaches make great toppings, too.
  • Mix it Up.  Blend plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt with 100% juice and fresh berries or peaches for a tasty fruit smoothie.  Buy only the amount of fresh produce your family will use within a few days.  Freeze the rest to use at a later time.
  • Nibble on Lean Protein.  Choose lean protein foods such as low-sodium deli meats, unsalted nuts, low-fat cheese or eggs.  Wrap sliced low-sodium deli turkey or ham around an apple wedge or a cherry tomato.  Store these in the refrigerator to be enjoyed as "grab and go" snacks.

Place a plastic container in the refrigerator to keep all snacks together so children can grab them when they are hungry.  Prepare single-serving snacks for younger children to help them get just enough to satisfy their hunger.  Let older kids make their own snacks by keeping healthy foods in the kitchen.