Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy National Canned Food Month!

From fruits and vegetables to meat, beans, seafood, and soups, a variety of healthy foods are available to us in a can.  Using canned foods in planning meals has many benefits.  Let's take a look at how canned foods can help save time and money.

Lower cost
Canned foods are usually cheaper than fresh and frozen foods and can help stretch our food budget.   Compare costs of different brands and sizes are the best buy.  Store brands can usually save you money.  Stock up on canned foods when there is a sale.

Healthy choices
Canned foods have the same amount of nutrients as frozen and fresh options.  Choose low-sodium canned vegetables.  If you can't find low-sodium choices, rinse the food in a colander to get rid of some of the excess salt.  Also, try to choose fruit canned in 100% juice instead of fruit canned in syrup.

Shelf life
Foods canned offer a long shelf life.  It is recommended to use canned foods within 1-2 years of purchase.  Rotate your cans often so your oldest canned foods are near the front.  Remember to store all canned foods in a clean, dry and cool place.  Always check the "use by" date and toss any expired foods.

Canned foods are also very convenient.  Already cooked, the canned food can be used to put together a quick soup, casserole, or used as a side dish in a meal.  They are ready to heat and eat!

Let's celebrate this month by using more canned foods in our meals!  Try our yummy
3 Bean Salad

Monday, February 1, 2016

Recipe Spotlight: Confetti Spaghetti

Stretch your food budget to make a tasty and healthy meatless meal!  Combine whole wheat pasta, vegetables, and low-fat cheese to make Confetti Spaghetti.

This recipe calls for fresh vegetables, but you can substitute cooked, leftover vegetables as well.  Serve this healthy and satisfying dish for lunch or dinner.  The whole grain pasta and vegetables provide great nutrition, and also have lots of fiber which will help you to feel full for a longer period of time.

This step by step recipe is easy to follow, and there are lots of step kids can help to do.  Children are more likely to eat healthy foods they help to prepare!  Even very young children can:
  • wash vegetables
  • tear washed, fresh greens
  • mix and stir ingredients
  • help to pour and measure
Invite kids into the kitchen and prepare family meals together.  Be a role model!  Show children you enjoy eating healthy foods, and they will too!

Confetti Spaghetti
Serves 8

1 box whole-wheat pasta such as rotini, cooked and chilled
1 red bell pepper, washed and chopped
1 carrot, washed and shredded
1/2 small head cauliflower, washed and cut into small pieces
1 cup baby spinach, washed (about 1/5 (12-ounce) bag baby spinach)
1/4 head purple cabbage, washed and shredded (about 1/4 of a head)
3 Tablespoons reduced-fat Italian dressing (or 2 Tablespoons oil and 1 Tablespoon vinegar)
2 Tablespoons part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

  1.  Place pasta and vegetables in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add dressing.
  3. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Dish into individual bowls and top with cheese (if desired).
  5. Serve!

Gather all of the fresh produce and wash really well.

Chop all veggies.

Get dressing, cheese, and pasta out and ready to assemble.

Place pasta and veggies in a large bowl.

Add dressing to pasta and veggies.
Mix all ingredients together.
Dish into individual bowls and top with cheese if desired. Enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Physical Activity in the Winter Months

Does the cold weather keep your family inside most days?  You can still be active as a family inside during the winter. Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity, especially if you have a small space! But your family can still enjoy getting activity inside.  Try some of these ideas during those cold winter days to keep your family moving.
  • Sock skating -- Try a safer version of ice skating by wearing socks on a smooth surface.   Paper places placed on carpet can work too!  Kids can "skate" around the house.
  • Winter Olympics - Although the Winter Olympics isn't this year, your family can still have their own Winter Olympics competition.  Make up games like sock skating, bobsledding using a laundry basket, and indoor hockey with a soft ball.
  • Snowball toss -- Make snowballs out of soft toys or rolled up socks.  Toss back and forth with another family member.  Each time you catch the snowball, take a step back.
  • Winter yoga -- Have your child try a more relaxing way of being active.  Try yoga poses like downhill skier, a twirling figure skater or a warrior pose.
It's important to continue to keep children active even during the winter months.  Plan time to be active as a family this week.  Your children will enjoy the time spent with you!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Winter Dinner Ideas

Winter is a great time to plan on dinners together as a family!  Days are shorter and many sports are on hold until warmer weather returns.  Having a hot meal together is a nice way to focus on family.

Slow cookers
Slow cooker meals, started when you leave at the beginning of the day and ready when you return, are a delicious and easy way to offer a hot and hearty meal to eat in the winter.  Slow cookers come in several sizes, so find one that is big enough for your family's needs, but not so big that you make more than you can eat. (Or divide up leftovers into smaller meals and freeze them for a quick meal that can be reheated in the microwave!)

Use lots of inexpensive winter vegetables or buy frozen veggies to add to the slow cooker.  Inexpensive cuts of meat like chuck, short ribs, round, shank, and rump are great in a slow cooker and become fork-tender by the time your meal is ready.  Save even more money by cutting your own meat into 1 inch cubes and using dried herbs for flavor and seasoning.

Soups, too, can be hearty, filling, and inexpensive.  Stews and chowders are usually great winter dinner ideas!  Look for recipes that include plenty of veggies; save money by not using meat and get your protein from lentils and beans.  Try this recipe for minestrone, a hearty vegetable soup with noodles that will please the whole family. 

One last note:  Vegetables in Winter

Don't let winter stop you from offering healthy veggies to your family.  While most veggies aren't in season in the winter, you'll find some that, like cauliflower, are available.  Or used canned and frozen veggies and don't forget canned tomatoes for winter flavor and health!

See more simple recipes at

Monday, January 11, 2016

Make Way for Meatless Meals

With the focus on high protein meals, many of us are eating more meat as an easy way to add protein to our diet.  Those that shop on a budget know that meat can be the most expensive item in our shopping cart.  Luckily there are many non-meat protein sources that are very affordable and easy to prepare.

A favorite non-meat source of protein is legumes, which includes beans.  Red beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, lima beans..the list goes on and on.  Add peas and lentils and the list grows even longer!  Buying dried beans and peas is usually the lowest in cost if you have time to prepare them.  Canned beans and frozen peas also are lower cost options that cook quickly and can be found in every grocery store.

Some of our favorite dishes that feature beans include 3-Can Chili, Mexican Veggie Bake, and Lentil Stew.  Get the whole family involved in dinner and have everyone make their own Veggie Bean Wrap, featuring beans, avocado, and mango.

Though eggs are an animal product, they are a healthy and cheap alternative to meat as a protein source.  Eggs can be used in many different recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Combine eggs with legumes for a hearty meal that will please everyone in your family!  Try this recipe for Eggs Mexicali for a zesty breakfast or dinner.

Other popular non-meat protein foods include nuts and seeds.  Peanut butter is a favorite among children for sandwiches, and also can be used in sauces and dips.  Note that peanuts are not really nuts -- they are legumes!  Other nut butters to include are almond butter and sunflower seed butter.  Add your favorite nuts and seeds to any salad for extra protein and crunch.  Top your soups and other dishes with nuts and seeds too!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Clean versus Sanitize

Winter is here in Maryland.  To keep your family healthy through the winter, let's clean and sanitize the way to spring. What are the difference between clean, sanitize, and disinfect?

Clean -- is the process of removing food and other types of soil from a surface, such as a dish or cutting board, using hot soapy water.

Sanitize -- is a process that decreases the number of germs on a correctly cleaned surface.

Disinfectants -- substances put on non-living objects, such as a kitchen counter to kill germs that are living on the object's surface.

How often should I clean and sanitize?
That will depend on your household.  Do you have older adults age 65 years or older?  Do you have children under the age of 5 years?  Is there someone in the home that is pregnant?  Does anyone in the home have diabetes, cancer, or other disease that might cause them to be at risk for infection easily?  Do you have indoor or outdoor pets?  If you answered yest to any of these questions, you may want to sanitize your house daily.

What makes a disinfectant good to use?  A good disinfectant works best when:
  1. The surface you are going to put a disinfectant on is clean.
  2. It is at the right temperature.
  3. The disinfectant is allowed to sit on the surface for a certain amount of time.

Recipe:  Homemade disinfectant
  1.  Add 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water.
  2. Mix at room temperature.
  3. Spray on clean surface.
  4. Let sit for 1 minutes.
  5. Clean off surface with a paper towel or let surface air dry. 
Want to know more about making other disinfecting your kitchen, visit Cleaning & Sanitizing the Kitchen.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Healthy New Year Starts Now

A new year means new beginnings and fresh starts.  Be ready for the new year with a plan for making healthier choices for you and your family.  Join our 2016 Healthy Challenge today!

The 2016 Healthy Challenge is all about moving towards a healthy lifestyle.  Everyone has different goals for making healthier choices.  Choose goals that are realistic and that you can carry out all year long.  Let's look at some simple goals to include in your 2016 Healthy Challenge.

Eat the rainbow.
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetable provides many health benefits.  Fruits and vegetables protect against certain diseases and cancer, and are high in fiber.  Eating colorful fruits and vegetables ensures that you are getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs.  Find ways to add a rainbow of colors into your meals.
  • Buy in season fruits and veggies.  Fruits and veggies taste best when they are in season.
  • Have a color challenge.  See how many different colors of fruits & veggies that you can include in your meals.
  • Fruits and veggies are among the healthiest foods we eat.  Choose canned, frozen, fresh, and dried fruits and veggies when planning your meals.
  • Have a "try a new food" day.  Encourage kids to try new foods.  Each week let your child try a new food.  If they don't like it, it's okay - offer it again at a later time.  Make an "I Tried It" chart and see what new fruits and veggies that your family liked the most.
  • Plan ahead for meals.  Planning meals for the week can help ensure that you have healthy meals for your family.  When you plan out your meals, you can also plan to use leftovers another night.
Be active.
Being active is another way to move towards a healthy lifestyle.  Regular physical activity helps to keep the extra weight off, gives you energy, and makes you feel better.  Plan to be active this year with some of these ideas:
  • Include the entire family.  Enjoy spending time being active with your family.  Set aside time 3-4 times a week to be active by walking around the neighborhood, playing ball, or enjoy inside activities like scavenger hunts, dance parties, or set up an obstacle course.
  • Find an activity to do together.  Many families enjoy doing activities together like taking a hike or playing a sport.  Look for an activity that all members of the family would enjoy doing and make time to do this activity.  
  • Have fun!  Being active also means having fun.  Many activities that you can do are also a lot of fun for kids. Look for ways to make physical activity fun for the whole family.
We wish you a very Happy, Healthy New Year!