For those looking to manage their weight, calories are a piece of the strategy. Calories are the energy we get from food, and some foods have more calories than others. Picking or substituting lower-calorie options in our daily food choices can help us get to our weight loss or management goals.
Who's going to a potluck this summer and needs to bring a dish? Whether going out on the lake, sitting beachside, or having a house party in someone's backyard, try these tips for being a contributor to the food fun.
Anyone else surprised by these high temperatures outside so early in summer? Phew, it's time to get into summer cooking mode. For me, that means using my oven less and adding in more cold temperature recipes. There are a variety of recipes you can make in summer to keep cool.
In a follow-up to the roasted veggies post, I started thinking about ways I make meals easy and quick, but still flavorful. What occurred to me were sauces I use in recipes. Sauces add another level to otherwise plain recipes.
I enjoy cooking at home and feel good about it, since research shows these meals tend to have more nutrients and fiber and less fat and sodium. Plus I get to control what goes into my meals. However, the lazy cook in me has shown up lately, and it has been a struggle to want to follow a recipe or plan meals in advance.
Winter brings a lot of different citrus fruits to grocery store shelves. Stocked with more oranges and grapefruits than usual, maybe you have noticed other interesting citrus as well: clementines, tangerines, mandarins, tangelos, cara cara oranges, blood oranges, pomelos (also pummelos), kumquats, and others.
Let's all celebrate Whole Grain Month this September and put our gluten-free concerns aside. People with celiac disease, gluten intolerance and wheat allergies CAN enjoy whole grains, too!

On a snowy, blowy Midwest evening, nothing sounds better after a long day's work than a warm, hearty meal. But after a full day of working, parenting, running errands the like, most Americans struggle to put together a meal to sit down to, thus the ever thriving "to go" food industry. Low and behold an underused solution to this weeknight meal dilemma, enter: the slow cooker. Crockpots are a great way to prepare those family favorites and have them ready by the time you get home.

We Image to nourish and fuel the body, but how often do you think about feeding your mind? More and more studies are demonstrating the importance of certain nutrients for brain health. Food influences energy levels, mood, memory, and more. In this first article of two on brain health, we'll cover sleep and mood.

Now that the holidays are behind us, several people have asked if I've made any New Year's health resolutions. The answer – of course – is of course I have. I'm no different from anyone else; I, the dietitian, put on a few pounds in the past month. Unfortunately, knowledge by itself is not enough to prevent weight gain during the holidays or any time of year, for that matter.

Olive oil, peanut butter and avocado are just a few foods that have gone from feared to revered over the last few years for their status as sources of "heart healthy fats." With February being heart month, I thought we should shine some light on this "hot topic" and get down to the nitty gritty on the details surrounding healthy fats.

Lemon bars are one of my all-time favorite springtime desserts. They're bright in both color and flavor and are a great way to end a meal on an uplifting note. But lemon bars aren't usually as light in calories as they are in appearance. I've tweaked this treat to be just as satisfying, with the perfect balance of sweet and tart for just about 100 calories per serving!

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe)

Zuppa Toscana is one of my favorite soups at Olive Garden but when looking at the nutrition information I decided to make my own version to avoid all of the sodium, fat and calories that come from just 1 serving.

By making a few simple changes to the ingredient list, I was able to save 130 calories, 11 grams of fat and a whopping 932 grams of sodium!

The healthier version still has the creamy appearance and the spicy undertone that I love. This is the perfect soup for cold, winter days and runny noses. Enjoy!

Original Ingredients:

It's Valentines weekend…we all know what that means: Chocolate galore! And while we should partake in treating ourselves in moderation, we can tend to get carried away. I mean who really eats only ONE chocolate out of the ten pound assorted box? We should most definitely indulge in these items appropriately, but when you get the notion to have "just one more" it helps to have a "healthy alternative" to turn to, satisfying that nagging sweet tooth that turns one or two into the whole dang box!

So, here is a spin on a classic Valentines cliché treat: chocolate truffles.

Last week, John L. (a producer at WCIA-3, our local CBS station) asked if it was possible to make a healthier version of the Chocolate Stout Brownies he made to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The stout beer used in the batter and glaze lends a rich, complex flavor. But 2 sticks of butter and a cup and a half of sugar? No wonder they're so decadent! So outrageous that I couldn't resist trying to rescue this recipe. Challenge accepted!

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe)

Original Recipe

I went with some friends down to southern Illinois over Memorial Day weekend and reconnected with some of my favorite places that I frequented throughout my time there during grad school. Besides the severe allergies I endured that last day it was a fantastic trip filled with fun in the sun and memories I shall never forget.

You know you've eyeballed them at the grocery store. They hang out in the produce section right next to the bananas. From time to time, might even be mistaken for bananas, but overly sized and sometimes rotten looking (black.) The plantain is a surprisingly versatile fruit that is as much a staple in tropical cultures as potatoes are to us Americans. Starring in roles from appetizers to desserts, this close call to a banana is much more starchy, less sweet, and is cooked before consuming.

Over the past few years, carbs have gotten an unnecessarily bad rap, but there's plenty of room for bread in a heart-healthy diet. And it's a good thing, because there's nothing quite like biting into a still-warm slice of freshly baked bread; soft and chewy inside, with a slightly crisp crust.

This fragrant recipe includes pumpkin for antioxidant vitamin A and cholesterol-lowering fiber. Whole wheat flour and ground flaxseed provide even more fiber. Plus, flaxseed contributes omega-3 fatty acids that can help manage blood pressure and triglycerides.

Leave the bottled salad dressing on the store shelf. You might be thinking, "But I buy 'low-fat' dressing so it isn't that bad…"

Think again.

When food manufacturers take out the fat, they are putting something else in to help with palatability and when it comes to dressing…it's most likely sugar and excess calories.

Instead of a sweet dressing try different salad toppers that provide an equally sweet taste such as:

Have you broken your resolution yet? Lost 20 pounds? Ran a marathon? Me neither. This year I am keeping it simple. An apple a day… Apples are good for you! Who knew? Recent studies both in the US (University of California, Davis) and in the United Kingdom (Oxford University) have shown that eating an apple a day can improve your cardiovascular health. In addition to these studies on apples' effect on heart health, there is some evidence of them improving lung function, having cancer fighting properties and decreasing consumer's risk of diabetes. All of this in a baseball sized fruit!

Okay, so donuts are delicious. Fried dough with a sweet frosting or glaze? Yes please. Of course, we all know that donuts aren't health food. But let's be honest - it's unrealistic to expect that you're NEVER going to eat donuts. Plus, it's definitely possible to occasionally have one in the context of a healthy eating pattern.

My perspective is that if you're going to have a donut, do it right.

This post goes out to cooks who want to save time preparing meals, use a few less dishes, and avoid heating up the house using the oven or stovetop. Whether reheating leftovers or cooking foods and recipes, it is time to open your microwaves!


I for one am a breakfast food fanatic! What's more, I absolutely love the smell of bacon in the morning! But what if I told you eggs and bacon aren't as simple as they once were. There are constantly new products out on the market targeting consumers as being a "healthier" alternative or a "new and improved" version of a classic. Ironically, the trend of making things seem simpler, less modified and more "natural" is what's sweeping store shelves today. Just when you thought it couldn't get simpler than bacon and eggs, enter uncured bacon and fertile eggs.

Celebrate a belated Mardi Gras with the one-pot wonder that is jambalaya! Spicy sausage, chicken breast, and shrimp stewed together with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and rice that soaks it all up. The best!

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe)

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From last month's post on concentrated calories, it is time to look at the opposite: foods that are not so concentrated in calories. While we can reduce portion si

It's an ancient tradition, but over the past few months, boiling animal bones has become a health craze. Speculated to provide health benefits such as healthier skin and hair, improved anxiety/mood levels, decreased joint pain, reduced inflammation arthritis, and better overall digestive health, it seems everyone wants to try this new food trend.

So, the obvious question exists: what is bone broth, anyway? It's exactly what it sounds like: broth made by boiling poultry, beef or fish bones until they break down. They can be boiled for as little as four hours or as long as two days.

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All these grey skies have most of us craving a tropical escape – white sands, palm trees, the sweet scent of coconut. Luckily, the latter's surge in popularity has led to the release of scores of coconut products. Coconut oil, milk, water – the (sunny) sky's the limit.

After the celebrating, Thanksgiving means leftovers for many families.

Food Safety

Pull meat off the bone and cut into desired sized pieces. Move leftover meat into the refrigerator within 2 hours after carving or soone

Raise your hand if you've got a case of cabin fever! As we slowly add more daylight and inch toward springtime, I've been craving one of my favorite ballpark snacks -- soft pretzels. Sure, I could swing by the mall for a jumbo pretzel saturated with butter and salt. But it's healthier and just plain more fun to make them at home, especially on cold days when you're cooped up inside.

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe)

University of Illinois Extension staff regularly teach on and answer questions about safe handling, preparation, and cooking of food. (Call your local office to get an

Do you blame your aging brain for forgetting someone's name? Billions of brain cells can get bogged down with age, making it harder to keep up with cognitive demands like remembering where you left your car keys. Or whether your friend's cousin is named Dave or Dan.

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This year's National Nutrition Month theme is "Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle." Have you ever thought about what a healthy lifestyle means to you?

University of Illinois Extension staff regularly teach on and answer questions about safe handling, preparation, and cooking of food. (Call your local office to get answe
Deviled eggs are THE quintessential Easter appetizer. Then again, they can be found year-round at all types of parties, picnics, and holiday gatherings, too. Sadly, deviled eggs can be devilishly high in fat and calories thanks to liberal amounts of mayo and sour cream mixed into the filling, but they don't have to be! Try my lighter take on a version that includes bacon and cheese for a flavorful twist on an old favorite.

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe)

Original Recipe (24 halves)
Much of the country has been in a deep freeze since we kicked off 2015. Clearly, only one thing can make this situation better. Yes, I'm talking about hot chocolate. There's nothing better than sipping from a steaming mug of cocoa. Forget pre-mixed packets or spending 5 bucks at a coffee shop. Make DIY hot cocoa mix at home for a treat that'll warm you up, satisfy your chocolate craving, and even supply protein and fiber. (Yes, really!)

Bonus - try our recommendations for salted caramel, raspberry, peppermint, and Mexican hot chocolate!

During this season of renewal, it's a good time to take stock with your health goals. Even if you've been successful in the past, a healthy lifestyle has ups and downs. The phrase "what's old is new again" can apply to food and exercise just as much as fashion trends.

We have an insatiable appetite for novelty – hence why there's always room for dessert. But I'm not sure the phrase gives the whole picture. It might be more accurate to say "what's old is new and then gets old again."

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Growing up in a Jewish home, it wasn't Sunday without bagels, lox, and cream cheese. I really don't know why the sandwich is a consistent part of American Jewish culture, but I can say with absolute certainty that it makes a really yummy breakfast (and also brunch or dinner).
Okay, who doesn't love a good old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich on a rainy day? Or even better, a grilled cheese sandwich served with a steaming bowl of creamy tomato soup. April showers bring May flowers; but in the meantime, here's how to revisit childhood (or make new memories for your own kids/grandkids!) without venturing out into the pouring rain.

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe)

How to make a satisfying and hearty grilled cheese:

Cleanses and detox diets take many shapes and forms, but are similar in that they claim to remove toxins from the body and cause drastic weight loss. Many people even report high levels of energy and euphoria as well as feeling more spiritual overall. Sounds good, right?

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When you hear "acid" or "acidic," you probably don't think of good outcomes. More likely, you're reminded of the burning sensation of lemon juice coming in contact with a cut on your finger. Or perhaps you think of the terrible heartburn you get after eating tomatoes.

Beef stroganoff over egg noodles - comforting, creamy, and just right for a chilly night. But this rich dish can pack in over 700 calories and almost an entire day's worth of fat! Read on to see how you can still enjoy this yummy beef and noodle classic as part of a balanced diet!

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe)

Eat more veggies! Eat more fruits! Isn't that what we've been told?

We usually hear the adjective "fresh" in front of those words, as in "fresh fruits and vegetables". But it's winter in central Illinois and fresh is a relative term.

Just how fresh is that bunch of broccoli from California or the grapes from Chile? Is "fresh" always best?

Sausage, eggs, and cheese as part of a balanced diet? You better believe it! Try my breakfast casserole recipe with a heart-healthy twist. Just 240 calories per serving with 13 g of protein, 2 g fiber, and 70% of your daily vitamin C!

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe)
Quick Spinach, Sausage, and White Bean Stew (Printable PDF Version)

Makes 8 cups


February is American Heart Month, and there's no better way to celebrate than with a heart-healthy meal!

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice weekly to reap the benefits of this leaner protein option. Cold-water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, lake trout, mackerel, and herring are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Are you ready for spring? Try these delicious sweet dip recipes to lighten up your springtime get-togethers. Cookie Dough, Chocolate Hazelnut, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Key Lime Pie -- serve with graham crackers, cubes of angel food cake, and fresh cut up fruit!

Healthier Chocolate Hazelnut Dip (Printable PDF Version)

Makes about 5 servings


Brighten up your table with colorful and nutritious Stuffed Peppers! These are sure to fill you up, with 19g of protein and 3g of dietary fiber for only 250 calories. Plus, 270% of your daily vitamin C and 60% of your vitamin A!

Watch Leia prepare Stuffed Peppers on WCIA-3's ciLiving to get more recipe ideas and tips! (scroll down for a printable PDF version of this recipe)