Happy National Nutrition Month!

This month is all about making small changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle, one forkful at a time.  Eating as a family is a great place to start.  Recent studies have found that regular family meals provide a variety of health benefits, including improved nutrient intake and a decreased risk of obesity, but finding time to prepare them can seem daunting.  Several organizations have developed resources to help families eat well together.  Celebrate National Nutrition Month by trying one!

Download sample menus and free recipe booklets from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of family meal ideas.

Make mealtimes fun with free nutrition games developed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  They are easy to print and include games and puzzles for adults and kids.

Spice up dinner with a new dish.  As a volunteer field editor for Taste of Home magazine, I received a copy of their new One Hundred Family Meals cookbook to review.  The book is filled with tips on making meals special, conversation starters and planning ideas.  Lightened dishes are labelled (“Eat Smart”) as are those that are quick to make (“Fast Fix”).  There’s even a place to jot down favorite meals.  Recently, I have been working my way through the No-Fuss Salads chapters.  With delicious options like Garden Tomato and Michigan Cherry Salads, there is sure to be a favorite for everyone at the table, and many more great ideas are available for free on their website.


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Healthy Heart Resources for Educators

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the American Heart Association has provided great tips on reducing sodium with printable handouts, mini-posters and infographs that are perfect for sharing.  Their eye-catching colors make them great for bulletin boards, too!  Find them online, along with many other resources, at the American Heart Association’s website here.

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Festive Appetizers


VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Festive Mango Guacamole

‘Tis the season for celebrations with friends and family, and guests with food allergies can

leave a conscientious host or hostess scrambling to find finding festive appetizers and snacks that are safe for everyone.  Here are a few last minute ideas that are sure to please.

Apple butter dip:  Combine 1 cup of apple butter with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar (can increase, depending on your taste).  Serve with dried apple chips for dipping or cinnamon-sugar pita chips, if no one is allergic to wheat.  Serves about 12.

Chunky Mango Guacamole: A few small tweaks to this recipe from Taste of Home make a safe guacamole for guests allergic to onions and tomatoes.  Omit the tomatoes and onion.  Add 3 chopped radishes for a festive splash of red and ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper.  Serve with rice crackers or chips.  Serves about 12.

Dairy-Free Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa:  In a medium sized slow cooker, combine 4 ½ cups of water, ¼ cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of dairy-free chocolate chips, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 dash of salt and ½ cup of granulated sugar.  Cook on low 2 hours, stirring every ½ hour.  Switch to keep warm setting to keep hot chocolate warm through the evening.  Serve with mini marshmallows and crushed candy canes as desired.  Makes about 6-7 servings.

As a volunteer Field Editor for Taste of Home magazine, I was sent a free Fillables Mini Loaf pan to try and review.  Using the pan, it was easy to make customized mini cakes by adding a variety of fillings.  For an allergy-friendly twist, I used a favorite allergy-friendly, pound cake recipe.  A cherry filling with a layer of coconut sorbet made a festive finish.  The individual size is also ideal for portion control. Clean-up took a few minutes, since each small pan had to be scrubbed, but otherwise, it was an easy way to make a fancy dessert.

Fillables Cherry Pound Cake with Coconut Sorbet

Fillables Cherry Pound Cake with Coconut Sorbet

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A Berry Delicious Thanksgiving!

It’s cranberry season!  The crimson berries star in plenty of fall recipes, and recently, they have been making headlines for possible health benefits.  Although cranberry juice is well-known for its role in urologic health, researchers have found additional roles for juice and other cranberry products as an antioxidant and natural antimicrobial, thanks to the 0plant compounds, proanthocyanidins, they contain.  Limited research has suggested possible roles in cardiometabolic health, as well.  (Click the links to read some of the original research articles.)  Of course, jellied variations and sauces contain extra sugar and are still best enjoyed as occasional treats.

If extra cranberries do linger in the freezer post-Thanksgiving, Taste of Home’s Apple Cranberry Bread is a delicious and festive way to put them to good use.   It freezes well and bursts with flavor while keeping fat and calories in check.  For those with food allergies, it is naturally dairy free, and the nuts can be omitted.  It is also easy to make egg-free by replacing the eggs with 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and enough water to equal one half cup.

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Step It Up!

The latest Dietary Guidelines continue to encourage everyone to keep moving for good health, and earlier this week, FitBit, The American College of Sports Medicine and The Surgeon General teamed up to begin their two-week, Step-It-Up challenge.  They’ve asked everyone to take as many steps as possible, and just four days in, their teams have logged more than 7 billion!  There’s still time to join the fun (and a FitBit is not required, though it can be used).  Get all the details at www.stepitupusa.org.


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Great Grains!

Happy Whole Grains Month!  Looking for ways to celebrate?  The Whole Grains Council has a month’s worth of fun ideas, including contests, recipes to try, supermarket tours and curriculum guides for teachers.  Visit their website to join the fun.

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Shop Smart for Back-to-School Snacks!

1-Be cart-smart!  Fill your shopping basket so that it mirrors a healthy meal plan, meaning about half fruits and vegetables, one quarter whole grains and one quarter lean protein.  Make some of the choices calcium-rich.

2-Save time with and avoid impulse purchases with a list; organize items on your list to correspond with the order you will travel the market for a faster trip.

3-Read food labels and packaging claims to ensure a healthy purchase.

4-Bend and stretch for a good deal!  Bargains or often on lower or higher shelves rather than at eye-level.

5-Use the freezer to avoid wasting fresh produce.

6-Shop the edges of the store for fresh foods but don’t miss healthy foods in the center aisles.

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