Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

As the air cools in the fall we often lean towards fixing those comfort foods for our family. Things like: mac and cheese, chili soup, spaghetti sauce and pasta, chicken and noodles all taste good to us. Many of us are also concerned with making our meals as healthy as possible to prevent chronic disease risk, or just improve our health in general. Here are some ideas to “Soup UP” your next pot of chili:chili-2

  • Ground meats – Switch your regular ground chuck out for a ground sirloin or lean ground turkey (even turkey sausage). Look at the fat or % lean and go as lean as you can for the price. Another protein option could be meatless veggie protein crumbles – they will reduce the fat, but still have the same texture as other ground meats. This product is typically found in the freezer section of stores.
  • Beans – Instead of using just red kidney beans, try 2 different kinds of beans. Beans that are brighter color will have higher antioxidant properties (red, black or brown). Some research studies have found diets rich in the antioxidants in beans to result in lower cancer risks for breast, stomach, colorectal, kidney and prostate cancer. By combining the types of beans you can pick up the benefits from several different varieties.
  • Diced Vegetables – Replace your chopped onion with a variety of chopped vegetables. Choose from onions, peppers, sweet potatoes, corn, celery, pumpkin, and/or butternut squash. This is a great way to clean out the crisper drawer in your refrigerator and to ramp up the vegetables in your pot. I recently peeled and cubed a small sweet potato into a pot of chili – it tasted great and helped thicken it up too.
  • Tomato Products – Most chili is a combination of tomato products – sauce, paste, juice, and stewed or diced. Tomatoes are packed with vitamins A, C, B6, potassium, and even fiber. Research studies support the consumption of tomatoes with heart health benefits and even skin health. With tomato products look to “No Salt Added” products when purchasing canned.
  • Seasonings – Combine a variety of spices and herbs to suit your own taste preferences – cumin, black and cayenne pepper, oregano, and chili powder are all good choices. Keep your salt to a minimum. For some people higher sodium intake is linked with higher blood pressure.

A few other perks for a big pot of chili soup are that it is almost a one dish meal; by adding a dairy, fruit, and bread you can have a tasty meal. Soups also freeze well for left-over meals or to carry for lunch. And last-but-not-least you can use up left-overs in chili soup by switching ground meat for pulled chicken or pork, and almost any vegetable can be dumped in the pot. I can’t wait to hear your favorite chili combination.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fayette County.


American Heart Association, (2016). Myths About High Blood Pressure, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Myths-About-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_430836_Article.jsp#.WApYz4MrLct

North Dakota State University, “All About Beans Nutrition, Health Benefits, Preparation and Use in Menus”, Garden-Robinson, J. and McNeal, K., https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/all-about-beans-nutrition-health-benefits-preparation-and-use-in-menus#section-3.

Penn State Extension, “Eating Tomatoes May Very Well Save Your Life”, Kralj, R., http://extension.psu.edu/health/news/2014/eating-tomatoes-may-very-well-safe-your-life.


Read Full Post »

Back to school means back to packing school lunches. Children need a healthy lunch with the right calories and nutrients to help them learn, grow, and play. Not only do we want to pack our kids a healthy lunch, we want them to eat it, too! Sometimes we need some new ideas to keep lunch interesting. Here are some tips for packing a school lunch:

Plan ahead. Just a little planning time to get the right foods on the grocery list, in the cart, and in the fridge is the right place to start.

Plan together. Sit down with your child weekly to talk about lunch menu options. Allow your child to help plan the menu. He will be more excited about lunch and more likely to eat it.

Try something new. We all tend to get tired of the same foods every day. Change up the menu. Look up some new ideas together.

Try a different shape. Food that looks fun is more fun to eat. Try cutting a sandwich in a different direction or use cookie cutters. Sliced cheese and fruit (especially melon) will also cut nicely with cookie cutters.

lunchBuild in some color. Research shows the more colorful the food, the more appetizing it is. One of the easiest and healthiest ways to do this is with fresh vegetables and fruits. See if you can ‘pack a rainbow’ of color in your child’s lunch throughout the week.

Use MyPlate for your Lunch Bag! This fact sheet from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach gives a variety of ideas from every food group! Aim for at least 4 out of the 5 food groups for health and variety.

Rethink the drink. Water and low-fat milk are the best options for lunch. Sugary drinks are considered ‘empty calories.’ Calories but no nutrients.

Invest in “cool” lunch packs. Ice packs, insulated thermoses and insulated lunch bags allow for more varied menu options by keeping food at the right temperature.

Pack the night before. If you’re pressed for time, mornings can run more smoothly when there is less to do. Pack lunches in the evening right after dinner clean up. Or you could even try prepping lunches for the week on Sunday and refrigerate or freeze for later use.

For more ideas on packing a healthy and safe lunch, check out What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag!


Iowa State University Extension



Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County


Read Full Post »

sweet corna


One of summer’s greatest pleasures is enjoying a fresh ear of sweet corn at a backyard barbecue.   We eagerly await the corn harvest, and now it’s here!  Fresh sweet corn is available in most communities throughout the month of August.

Corn is a nutrient-rich vegetable.  One ear of corn is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and potassium.  Corn is also a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin; phyto-nutrients that are linked to a reduced risk for cataracts and macular degeneration.  Corn has about the same amount of calories as an apple, but with one-fourth less sugar.

To reap the full nutritional benefits of corn, cook no longer than 10 minutes in boiling water to minimize nutrient loss. While boiling is the primary way most of us prepare corn, grilling is a popular and tasty alternative. Other ways to enjoy this nutritious vegetable include mixing it into pasta dishes, corn bread, soups and/or salads.

For a different taste, try seasoning corn with lime juice instead of butter.  Or combine cooked corn kernels with chopped scallions, red pepper, hot pepper sauce and lime juice as a quick salsa for meat, poultry or fish.

So what are you waiting for?  In a few weeks corn season will be over. Make plans to visit your local farmer’s market to pick up some sweet corn this weekend!

Written by:  Beth Stefura M Ed, RD, LD, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu
Resources:  Summer Corn – More Than Delicious, Web MD

Read Full Post »

On average, women live five to ten years longer than men. Why the disproportion?  One reason may be that men are 33 percent less likely to go to the doctor (CDC).   Other reasons suggest that more men smoke and drink than women and males generally have weaker social connections.  Men also may not be as involved as women in grocery shopping or making household meal decisions.

man biking.jpg

The news doesn’t have to be all bad. There are tips guys can follow to reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases, including heart attacks and stroke) disease, high blood pressure, and lung cancer.

Heart disease (includes heart attacks and stroke) – 2.5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity each week is recommended to help prevent heart disease. In the 2014 National Health Interview survey, only 50 percent of men met these guidelines.  Increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating more salmon, sardines, tuna, nuts and seeds is also beneficial.  Don’t forget fiber consumption through plant-based foods including oatmeal, berries, beans, and vegetables.


High blood pressure – according to the CDC almost one out of three men over the age of 20 has high blood pressure (hypertension). Most sodium in the average American diet comes from restaurant meals, approximately 25%.  The rest of the sodium in the diet comes from processed foods, including canned soups, meal mixes (helpers), breads, cereals, lunchmeat, pizza, and sandwiches.  Filling your plate by eating more fruits and vegetables (which are a good source of potassium and magnesium) can help you focus on reducing your intake of high-sodium processed foods.  Add more beans to salads or eat hummus as a vegetable dip.  Beans are a great source of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, helping reduce blood pressure.  They are also an excellent source of fiber.

Lung cancer – lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in men, yet one out of five young men continue to start smoking.  Select foods that are high in vitamin C, magnesium and carotenoids, such as broccoli, cantaloupe, apples, avocados, carrots and citrus fruits.   These foods contain nutrients that support lung health.  If you would like to quit smoking find support by contacting 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Sources: Lung Health & Diseases, American Lung Association, www.lung.org

National Health Interview Survey, National Center for Health and Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov

Shafer, J.; Man on a Mission, Delicious Living, June 2016, www.delicousliving.com

Written by: Jennifer Even, Family and Consumer Sciences/EFNEP Extension Educator, Hamilton County, even.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Cheryl Barber Spires, RD, LD, Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, spires.53@osu.edu


Read Full Post »

June 10th is the National observance honoring Herbs and Spices. Have you been told you should reduce the sodium in your diet? If so, check out this blog for suggestions for pairing herbs and spices with common foods.

Basil Herb Bowl

Basil Herb Bowl

Are you new to growing or using herbs? Start with a plant or two (or seeds) that you plan to use and grow your herb garden from there. Basil, Oregano, Cilantro, Rosemary, Parsley, Thyme & Sage are all relatively easy to grow. You can combine several plants into one pot for your own kitchen herb pot.

Basil is a very easy and versatile herb. There are several varieties of this herb. This easy-to-grow herb makes a beautiful planter – just place several varieties in a flowerpot to make a basil herb bowl.

 Not sure which spices to use? Check out this fact sheet from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Plan to use more fresh herbs in your recipe if you are substituting for dry herbs. This Ohio State University Extension fact sheet describes common herb/food pairings. Remember to add herbs at the end of the cooking as some of the flavor is lost with excess cooking.

New to seasoning with herbs? Start small to make sure you like the flavor before adding too much.

Here are a few pairings to get you started:

Basil                    Tomatoes and tomato dishes, vinegar, rice, eggs, meats, duck, salads, &  vegetables.

Oregano              Italian tomato sauces, barbecue sauce, soups, eggs, cheese, pork, vegetables & salad dressings.

Rosemary           Chicken, lamb, pork, vegetables, chowders & cheese.

Have you always wanted to make your own pesto? Watch this short YouTube video featuring OSU Extension Educator, Shari Gallup.  You will see how easy it is to make pesto from fresh basil.

Get fancy – the easy way! Cut Basil Chiffonade and add as a garnish to pasta, pizza, or salad. This is a chopping technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and basil) are cut into long, thin strips. This is accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll.

IMG_5809IMG_5810photo (5)

What herbs will you plant this summer? Send a comment to me and share what you planted.

Source: [OSU Extension], Gallup, S. (2014, June 9) Simple Pesto using Herbs from the Garden [Video File]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/p0Zc8ye7V1o

Written by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Cheryl Barber Spires, Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed,  Ohio State University Extension, barber-spires.1@osu.edu


Read Full Post »

Recipes that offer variety and flexibility are very appropriate for today’s society.  Making MyPlate choices as you make grocery selections helps this week’s meals come together more easily.

Brown rice is a nutrition powerhouse that provides whole grains and B vitamins and great energy.  Versatility is fun when it comes to rice bowls.  Breakfast lunch and dinner all have options that can begin with this inexpensive and nutritious grain.  On average a half cup serving of brown rice costs just 10 cents.

A good suggestion is to cook a large quantity of brown rice at one time and have it on hand for the week.  It freezes well and retains moisture.  It can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

MyPlate on a Budget is a helpful resource that offers many great tips and recipes that keep food expenses low and nutrient intake high.  One of the sections in this online resource is devoted to whole grains.  Take a look at the Brown Rice Bowl assortments below and choose some favorites.  You can also add your own preferred flavors and come up with unique concoctions.

brown rice

As you incorporate brown rice into your healthy eating pattern, please share some of your creations and most loved ideas with all of us.  Your go-to meal or snack may be someone else’s new pick.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and MyPlate encourage making half of our grains whole.  Adding brown rice to your rotation is one step towards meeting that goal.  Once a large batch is cooked, time is saved and by planning ahead you can have a plethora of options at your fingertips.  Enjoy!


Reviewer:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, EFNEP/FCS, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County, even.2@osu.edu


Read Full Post »




Recently I had to replace my beloved stove. It had served me well over the years with family dinners, parties and countless cooking experiments.  I researched the various models, features and recommendations and was prepared to make an educated, informed decision.

When I finally started making the rounds at the appliance stores to check out the new ranges, I wasn’t prepared for a specific feature I found on a majority of the ranges. Chicken Nugget and Pizza pre-set buttons. What’s this? Does our nation eat chicken nuggets and pizza to such an extent that we need to have those two specific foods singled out for pre-set buttons so we can heat them up in a moment’s notice?  Are we perceived by appliance manufacturers as consumers of convenience foods in massive quantities?

Other countries already see Americans as huge drive-thru/convenience food eaters; is it any wonder the appliance industry followed suit? What will be next? Refrigerators with high sugar beverage or energy drink dispensers? It’s no wonder the current dietary guidelines have started to shorten their estimates of life expectancy—we know our children won’t live as long as their grandparents.  Their diets are not health-supporting.

The 2015 dietary guidelines recommend that Americans start to shift their food choices from convenience foods to more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to improve overall health. In the next couple of years there will also be more health messages touting the danger of excessive sugar in beverages and energy drinks.

At a recent meeting with colleagues, I observed several co-workers pull yogurt, fresh fruit, vegetables with hummus, and various vegetables out of their lunch bags to consume during our working lunch. It struck me how easy these simple, healthy foods are to eat, yet so powerful. I am grateful to be part of a group of health-focused individuals that are not just “talking the talk,” but also “walking the walk.” Let’s all do our part to improve the American diet and get healthy along the way!

P.S. I ended up purchasing a range that has no pre-set nugget/pizza buttons, and look forward to future cooking adventures!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

References: Am J Clin Nutr January 2015 vol.109 no.1 6-16

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »