Monday, January 26, 2015

Portion Sizes

Over the years, Americans have started eating more and more food.  The amount we put on our plates or in our cups and that the size of restaurant options have become bigger and bigger.  But most of us know that eating more and getting less physical activity means we are likely to gain weight.  What to do?

Here's a quick and easy guide to portion sizes:
  • A piece of poultry or meat (3 ounces) should be about the size of the palm of your hand.
  • A piece of fish should be the size of a deck of cards or the size of a checkbook.
  • 1/2 cup of pasta or rice should be about the size of a tennis ball.
  • A pancake or waffles should be the size of a CD.
  • A serving of peanut butter, two tablespoons, is the size of a Ping-Pong ball.
Fruits and veggies can be measured one cup at a time -- about the size of a baseball or a woman's fist.  A medium apple or orange should be the size of a tennis ball.  A serving of dried fruit, which is very concentrated, should be the size of a golf ball.  A cup of lettuce is about four leaves, torn up.

Some tips for portion control:
  • Read the nutrition facts label on food packages to learn the suggested serving size.  If you eat more than the serving size, it means you are eating more calories than the label shows.
  • Measure out your food until you get a better idea of what a serving size should look like.
  • Don't eat out of a bag or box -- serve yourself the correct amount.  This is a great idea for snacking, too -- measure out the portion size you want to eat and package it in a small baggie to keep from over-eating.
  • Eat on a plate, sitting at the table.  Eating at your desk or on the soda does not help us eat mindfully.
  • Eat lean meats, drink non-fat or low-fat milk, and make half your grains whole.  Eat lots of fruits and veggies.
  • Drink plenty of water!

For more information on portion sizes and portion control visit:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Recipe Spotlight: Beet and Tomato Soup

A warm flavorful soup is the perfect dinner idea for a cold winter night.  Beet and Tomato Soup is a savory dish the whole family will love.  In this soup beets, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and garlic combine for a delicious twist to traditional tomato soup.  Besides adding a wonderful taste, beets and carrots add extra vitamins and minerals to your meal including vitamin A, potassium, and folate!  Beet and Tomato Soup is easy to make and goes great with a low-fat grilled cheese sandwich or a veggie salad!

Beet and Tomato Soup Recipe
Serves:  8

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 small beets, washed, peeled, and cubed
6 carrots, washed, peeled, and sliced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, and salt and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the beets, carrots, tomatoes, and broth.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  5. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
  6. Let cool, and blend soup in batches until smooth.
  7. Stir in lemon juice and chill in the refrigerator if desired.
  8. Soup can be served cold or hot.

Gather all of the ingredients that you will need. 

Wash and cut onion, garlic, carrots, and beets.

Add vegetable oil, onions, and garlic to large pot
on medium heat and cook for 5 minutes.

Add diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, beets, carrots,
and salt.  Bring the pot to a boil.
Once the soup begins to boil, lower the heat, cover, and cook
for one hour.

Let soup cool and blend in small batches until smooth.

When soup is blended, add the lemon and serve or store
in the refrigerator.

Serve hot or cold!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Winter Recipe Round-Up

Winter time is a great time to have fun in the kitchen with the kids.  With several breaks during the winter months, cooking healthy treats is a fun way to bond with kids and introduce them to healthy new foods.  Cooking with kids provides a great learning opportunity for them.  By preparing foods, kids also gain math, reading, science and motor skills!

Here are some fun and healthy ideas for trying new foods and recipes with your kids.
  1. Sweet Potatoes and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars --  A healthy twist to a kids favorite cookie.  Sweet potatoes are on sale and in-season this time of year.
  2. Roasted Root Vegetables -- Roasted root veggies are easy to make and a great savory side dish to pair with dinner or eat for a snack.  The kids will get to try new veggies that they may have not seen before.
  3. Banana Nut Oatmeal -- While the kids are out of school it is important for them to eat breakfast every day.  There is nothing better than warm oatmeal on a cold morning!  The kids can help measure the oats and cut the bananas!
  4. Tony's Trail Mix -- Healthy snacks are important to keep the kids fueled during the day.  Make this easy trail mix with them.
  5. Have Fun with Sandwiches -- Make lunchtime fun.  Let the kids use cookie cutters to cut whole grain sandwich bread!  

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year's Resolutions: Let's Make Them Work for Us!

This year, I'm going to:
  • Make at-home meals so my family spends more time together.
  • Lose the extra weight that I gained from last year.
  • Get more physical activity.
  • Eat better.
Wow!  That's a long list of goals!  By setting New Year's goals, we focus our attention on parts of our lives that we want to improve.  However, if we make goals that are too broad or not specific enough, we might be setting ourselves up for not reaching our goals.  What to do?

Let's look at the goals listed above and try to break them down into smaller steps that will make it easier to meet and track the progress made to keep motivated.

  • Family meals.  Choose a reasonable number of times that your family can make meals at home.  What would work for your family?  Can you eat two dinners a week together?  How about "I will make at-home breakfast on weekends" if that is more likely to work.
  • Weight loss.  Adding extra pounds doesn't just happen over the holidays.  It will take some time to get rid of the extra weight.  Set a realistic goal of losing one pound a month.
  • Physical activity.  Getting more physical activity will help to reduce the weight too.  Set goals on physical activity like "I will take a walk during lunch whenever the weather allows" or "I will bike with the kids two nights a week after dinner".  Build activity plans as specific steps that you can accomplish.  You can always increase your physical activity as you get into a routine and start to enjoy the benefits!
  • Eat better.  Look at the way that you and your family currently eat and find ways that you can improve.  Do you drink soda?  Drinking soda provides empty calories.  Set a goal to reduce (or stop) the amount of soda  you drink.  You can also set a goal to eat fruits and vegetables every day.  If you already eat fruits and vegetables, eat one more each day.  Drink lower-fat milk and choose lean meats and poultry as often as possible.
For additional tips on how to make specific, realistic goals check out our previous blog post

By making your goals specific, you will have a great change of reaching them!  Have a healthy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Winter Physical Activity Fun

The cold weather and holiday treats can make us lose motivation for physical activity this time of the year!  Stay active by making physical activity fun for the whole family.  Why not start a fun physical activity challenge when the kids are home from school?  Pick a new physical activity to do for each day of the week!  Keep track on a chart at home.

Here's an example of a chart to help track your child's progress!  To download your own copy of a tracking sheet, click here

Here are some fun ideas to get you started:

Indoor activities
    • Dance, Dance, Dance --  Turn on music and have the kids dance to 3 or more of their favorite songs!  You can also find some great children's dance videos on YouTube to get the kids moving.
    • Hot Lava --  Set pillows up in a course around the house.  The goal is to travel from pillow to pillow without touching the ground.  This gets the kids jumping and moving!  Have them make a story to go along with the game!
    • The Exercise Hat -- Fill a hat with different activities like toe touches, jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups and high jumps.  Have the kids pick from the hat and do the activity as many times as they can.
    • Make a Yoga Routine -- Watch kids yoga videos with your child.  Teach them 3-4 moves and then have them make their own sequence.  Listen to relaxing music to set the mood.
    • Indoor Bowling -- Use plastic cups or empty water bottles to set up an indoor bowling alley.  Let kids roll a bouncy ball and knock over the cups.  Then see how quickly they can clean up and reset the alley!
    • Indoor Hopscotch -- Use masking tape to set up an indoor hopscotch course.  Use a bean bag to toss and hop to the square you land on.  Be a good role model and play along with the kids!

Outdoor Activities

    • Ride Bikes -- Bundle up with scarves and gloves and take the bikes out for a spin. 
    • Have an Outdoor Scavenger Hunt --  Make a list of 10 things that you may see during a walk.  Try a new path or a new course and have the kids check items off the list that they see or find.
    • Play in the Snow --  If it's snowing let the kids have a shoveling contest and see who can build the largest pile of snow.   Making snow angels and snow men count too!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sodium in Processed Foods

Most people in the United States eat much higher amounts of sodium than they should.  Eating foods with too much sodium can lead to increased blood pressure, which can contribute to heart disease and the risk of stroke.  Salt and sodium are not the same, yet both words are often used in place of each other.  Ninety percent of the sodium consumed is in the form of salt. 

More than 75% of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed, pre-packaged, and restaurant foods.  Only a small amount comes from using the salt shaker, either added during home cooking (5%) or at the table (6%).

Where does sodium come from?  The most popular foods that can add high levels of sodium include:

Helpful Tips
Breads and rolls
1 slice of bread can be 80 to 230 milligrams of sodium
Cold cuts and cured meats
1 serving, about 6 thin slices of deli meats can add as much as half of your daily recommended sodium
Limit cheese and add more veggies to your next slice
Sodium in poultry products will vary with the preparation method
Check labels to find lower sodium varieties
Try a half sandwich with a side salad

How much sodium should be consumed?  According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010: 
  • Americans aged 2 years and older should consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day.
  • People aged 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or who have high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, should further reduce their sodium intake to 1500 milligrams per day.

Research has shown that over time, your taste buds can adjust to prefer less salt.  How can you reduce the amount of sodium you consume?
  • Compare nutrition facts labels on similar canned and packaged foods and choose the one with the lowest amount of sodium.
  • Purchase fresh fruits and vegetable or canned products with no added sodium.
  • Avoid or limit your use of canned and pre-packaged meat products.
  • Rinse regular canned foods such as beans to help reduce the amount of salt.
  • Select frozen vegetables without added sauces.
  • When preparing food at home, season foods with fresh herbs and spices in place of salt.
  • Use "low sodium" or "no salt added" ingredients in recipes.
  • Whether eating at home or at a restaurant, select small portions to help limit how much salt you eat.
  • Request restaurant nutrition information to be available to make healthier, lower sodium choices.
For more information on how you can reduce the sodium in your diet, visit:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Healthy Holiday Tips!

The holidays are here!  Make this season festive and healthy.  Follow these tips when planning meals and holiday get-togethers.

Healthy Eating Tips
  1. Plan and eat balanced meals that include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  These foods will help you fill up without the extra calories.  Visit MyPlate's 10 Tips for Making Healier Holiday Choices for more information.
  2. For appetizers and snacks, serve raw vegetables and fruits with low-fat yogurt dips.
  3. Eat smaller portions of food.  Enjoying smaller amounts can help avoid the additional calories that often come with holiday foods.
  4. Eat a healthy snack before going to a party.  A salad and a piece of fruit before the event will help you control your eating.
  5. When at a party, spend less time at the food table and more time visiting with family and friends.
  6. Make time for physical activity: take a walk, play some touch football, or enjoy holiday music.  Get the whole family moving.
Healthy Food Preparation Tips
  • Substitute fat-free or 1% milk for whole milk in recipes.
  • Use plain non-fat yogurt instead of mayonnaise and cream in your recipes.
  • Saute vegetables for stuffing in non-fat chicken broth.
  • Use fresh or dried herbs and spices in recipes to boost flavor instead of butter, sugar, and salt.
  • Try a healthier version of a favorite dish.  Your family will welcome the change and few calories.  Visit our Eat Smart Website for recipes such as Baked Apples and Sweet Potatoes and other healthy recipes.