Monday, October 5, 2015

Building a Better Salad

It's no secret that salads are refreshing, nutritious, and delicious  They can help you get your daily servings of vegetables in one meal.  The best part is that a salad can be a 5 food group meal.  You are
in control of how many ingredients to add.

We put together these easy tips to help you build a healthy, yummy salad.
  1. Vary your greens. With so many leafy vegetables to choose from, you can keep your salad fresh by varying your base.
    • Choose from:  romaine lettuce, arugula, radicchio, and green loose leaf lettuce.  Better yet, mix them all in together!
  2. Keep the veggies coming!  Just because you have a base of greens does not mean you cannot add more veggies.  Add color to your salad by including your favorite veggies.
    • Cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, sliced bell peppers can all bring flavor, texture, and color to your salad.
  3. Try some fruit.  Adding even one fruit to your salad can make it more colorful, delicious, and nutritious.  
    • Go for sliced grapes, strawberries, oranges, or blueberries.
  4. Don't forget the protein.  Lean protein keeps your body feeling full and energized.
    • Remember beans, lean meats, edamame, or tofu are great options for your salad.
  5.  Sprinkle some cheese for flavor (optional).  Adding some cheese, such as feta, mozzarella, or cheddar cheese can help boost the calcium in your dish.
    • Try a reduced fat cheese!  
  6. Go easy on the dressing.  If you choose to bring salad dressing to the party, try a "light" variety, or better yet, substitute lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.
    • Dip your fork into the dressing to get the flavor, rather than piling it on top of your salad.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Limiting Salt Intake

We hear a lot about watching the amount of sodium in our foods.  Did you know that the recommended amount of sodium for a healthy person is about a teaspoon of salt, or 2300 mg, a day.  We usually eat much more than that!

Do you know what foods have higher amounts of sodium?  There are 6 popular foods that we eat that have lots of sodium, even though they don't really taste salty.  Let's take a look at what these foods are and find some ways to cut down on the sodium that we eat each day.

  1. Breads and Rolls -- Breads and rolls can contain 100-200 of sodium per piece.  This can really add up when making a sandwich.  Look for whole grain bread with 200mg of sodium or less per serving.  Use whole grain pita pockets or whole grain English muffins for a twist to your regular sandwich!
  2. Cold cuts and cured meats -- Sandwich meats are usually packed with sodium.  Just two ounces of deli meat can have half of our daily recommended sodium intake.  Look for low-sodium meats or make sandwiches with hummus, egg whites, veggies or low sodium tuna instead.  Try a Crunchy Vegetable Wrap for a healthy alternative to the normal sandwich. 
  3. Pizza -- Pizza is a household favorite that everyone loves.  Many of the ingredients that go on a pizza can really add lots of sodium.  Choose a low sodium crust and change up the pizza by adding olive oil instead of tomato sauce, limit the amount of cheese added, and load up on veggies!  Make MyPlate Pita Pizzas at home with the kids and let them add their favorite veggies to make it their own. 
  4. Poultry -- Poultry (chicken and turkey) can sometimes have broth or a sodium solution added that increases the amount of sodium in each serving.  Read the label and only choose chicken that has no added ingredients or seasonings.
  5. Soup -- Many canned soups have one days' worth of sodium in a single serving!  Look for low-sodium canned soups or make your own homemade soup.  Make a homemade Chicken Noodle Soup recipe at home for the family.
  6. Sandwiches -- Burgers and sandwiches may contain a lot of sodium, especially from a restaurant.  Try asking that the sandwich be grilled and plain (without cheese and other condiments).  This will help reduce the amount of sodium.   Instead of the whole sandwich, order a half sandwich and then add a side salad or fruit to your meal.
For additional ways to reduce the amount of sodium in your meals, visit our previous blog post, Salt = Sodium.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Healthy Summer Desserts

Hot temperatures call for refreshing, cool treats.  The Eat Smart team is here to help you find alternatives to the classic summer ice cream.  Remember, sometimes foods like ice cream can be enjoyed during special occasions!

Enjoy these tasty ideas with your family and feel good about doing so, too!
  • Seasonal fruit salad.  Enjoy a mix of your favorite fresh summer fruits.  Apples, pears, raspberries, and watermelon are in season well into October.
  • 30-second fruit cobbler.  Impress your family by making a healthy dessert on the go.  Mix a sliced apple with a teaspoon of sugar and a dash of cinnamon, microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the fruit is soft.  Top each serving with a 1/4 cup of low-fat frozen yogurt.
  • Drinkable desserts.  Make a healthy smoothie or slushy with your favorite frozen fruit.  You do not need to add sugar as the fruits are sweet on their own.  Mix your fruits with milk for added calcium, Vitamin D and protein.  Use a small (8 oz.) cup for portion control.
  • Frozen fruit treats.  Freeze small chunks of larger fruits or  small fruits such as grapes.  Take the frozen fruit in a small, sealed plastic bag when running errands or out for the day.  By the time you are ready to snack (within 2 hours) your fruits will be soft and still cold.  Refreshing!
  • Open-faced choco-banana sandwiches.  If you're crunched on time, lightly spread a chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella) on a slice of whole wheat break and top with banana slices.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Packing Healthy Lunches

If you send lunch to school with your child, you have a wonderful chance to show them that healthy foods should be eaten at every meal.  Stay clear of pre-packaged lunches that are usually high in salt, calories, fat, and sugar.  Instead, you can pack a healthy lunch that will give your child the energy they need to keep going throughout the rest of the school day.

What kind of sandwich?
Think about the kind of sandwich you want to send.  Use whole grain bread or whole grain wraps to hold lean meat like turkey or chicken.  Be sure to include lettuce (keep it in a separate container or bag so the rest of the sandwich doesn't get soggy).  Peanut butter and fruit jam or fruit preserves make a nice sandwich, too.  A low-fat cheese slice in a rolled-up wrap is fun to eat.   Remember you will need to keep any sandwiches with meat or dairy (cheese) cold.  A reusable freezer pack or frozen water bottle is a good choice.

Something salty...
Stay away from sending potato chips with your child's lunch.  Pack whole grain crackers in the lunch box!  Instead of getting just salt and fat from chips, your child will get an extra bit of fiber to help them feel full.  Send along a separate container with salsa or hummus for a low-calorie dip.  Lightly salted popcorn or baked tortilla chips might be a fun treat, too!

Add veggies
Let your child choose what veggies they want to add in their lunches.  Baby carrots, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower are easy to add and a favorite for many kids.  Veggies give fiber and provide a "crunch" that kids love!  Salsa, hummus or low-fat dip go great with veggies.

Remember fruit!
Fruit is a must for a packed lunch and you have many choices.  Dried fruit is a fun way to include fruit, but remember that a little bit goes a long way.  A quarter cup of raisins, dried cranberries or apricots, or any other dried fruit equals a serving of fruit.  Or send along a whole, washed piece of fresh fruit like a small apple or a peeled orange.  Applesauce and diced canned fruit now come in single-serving sizes.  Be sure to get canned fruit without added sugar since fruit is naturally sweet.  If you cut up fruit, it must be kept cold.

Re-think that drink
Encourage your child to drink water throughout the day.  With lunch, consider sending along a small bottle of water or a can of 100% fruit juice.  Be sure to check the nutrition facts label.  Look into vegetable juices such as tomato juice, which give your child another serving of vegetables.  Just be aware that these may be high in sodium.  Some schools allow children to buy  milk even if they aren't buying the rest of the school lunch.  Check with your child's cafeteria to see if this is available.

Skip the sweets
Teach your child that a healthy meal does not include sweets.  Save those for a special treat.

Try these other tips for packing healthy lunches

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fun Snack Ideas for Kids

Children spend a lot more time and eat more meals at home during the summer than during the school year.  It can be hard to find new and exciting foods to try with the kids.  Try these quick and easy snack ideas for your children to have after they get home from school each day.

  1. Make a snack box for the refrigerator.  Have a few grab and go snacks for the kids (and adults too!) to choose from when they are hungry.  Some grab and go snack ideas include fresh cut veggies like carrots, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower, and fruits like grapes, apples, and berries.  Place snack sized portions of the fresh fruits and veggies in small plastic bags.  
  2. Other snack box ideas.  Other foods to add to the snack box are cheese sticks, low-fat yogurt, and unsweetened apple sauce. 
  3. Freeze fruits!  Kids loves cold treats any time of the year.  Take some of their favorite fruits like grapes, peeled bananas, peaches, and orange slices and place in small plastic bags in the freezer.  The fruit will be ready when the kids are hungry!
  4. Homemade popsicles.  Homemade popsicles are so much fun for kids to help make and eat.  One of our favorite flavors is Watermelon Pops.  You can try the same recipe by substituting their favorite fruit, a little lime juice and place in freezer molds.
  5. Fruit and Yogurt  Kabobs.   Have your child choose 3-4 of their favorite fruits.  Cut fruit into bite-size pieces and place on wooden skewers.  Dip in low-fat yogurt for a yummy treat!
  6. MyPlate Salsa.  Did you know that you can get all of the MyPlate food groups in the MyPlate Salsa recipe?  This is an easy snack that kids can help to put together quickly.  This salsa goes great with veggies like carrots and celery or tortilla chips.  
What is your child's favorite after school snack to eat?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy Tailgating Tips

Tailgating is a popular way to spend time before sporting events, concerts, and festivals.  Also know as a long car picnic, tailgating involves a lot of "sometimes" foods that aren't always good for us.  With a little planning, you can have healthy and delicious foods at your next tailgate party!

Tailgating parties can sometimes last for several hours, so keep food safety in mind as you think about your menu.  Try these tips below to have a nutritious and safe tailgating party this season.

Favorite finger foods
Most tailgate meals are best eaten with your hands.  To really show off your team spirit, create fruit and vegetable kabobs in your team colors.  Kabobs are great prepared the day before and are easy to take along in plastic containers with lids or on covered platters.  Eat them cold or toss them on your portable grill to bring out the natural sweetness that makes fruits and vegetables so delicious.  If grilling, soak the wooden skewers for about 30 minutes before placing fruits and veggies on them.

Wraps can also be prepared ahead of time, and then cut into finger-ready pinwheel slices for serving.  The options for fillings are many -- your favorite vegetables and hummus, sliced meats with crunchy veggies, tuna or chicken salad with grapes and lettuce.  When preparing your pinwheels, you may want to use toothpicks to hold your fillings in place.

For a different take on chips and dip, try your favorite raw or blanched sliced veggies instead of chips and serve with hummus.  Or, create your own dip by mixing plain Greek yogurt with dry ranch dressing mix.  If you are having tortilla chips, an FSNE favorite MyPlate Salsa make a great dip, as well as our Peach Salsa or Mango Salsa.

Don't forget to add some whole fruit to your tailgate menu.  The ultimate finger food, whole fruits can be stored safely at room temperature and are a great post-game snack.  Peaches, plums, apples, and pears are currently in-season and may be available at your local farmers' market.  Bring a jar of nut butter for dipping if you want a more hearty snack.  Cantaloupe and watermelon are great choices too - just slice and enjoy!   Be sure to wash all whole fruits before packing, even the cantaloupe and watermelon.

Safety first
If you are going to be cooking meat at your tailgate, always remember to keep raw meat separate from cooked meat, including any dishes you have used for preparation.  Expert tailgaters keep their raw and cooked meat in separate labeled coolers, have separate utensils and prep surfaces, and have plenty of ice on hand to keep things cold.  It's a good idea to keep drinks in their own labeled cooler, and vegetables in their own cooler separate from raw meat.

Remember that foods should be thrown out after 2 hours if left at room temperature.  Otherwise, be sure to keep cold foods at or below 40 degrees and hot foods at or above 140 degrees.

With all your delicious and nutritious food on display, plan for your neighbors to want to sample your menu.  When tailgating, always bring enough to share!

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!