Did pumpkin pie appear on your Thanksgiving menu this year? It is pretty likely. According to the American Pie Council, pumpkin pie is the top dessert at Thanksgiving. Will pie appear again at your other parties and celebrations this holiday season? Consider mixing things up and trying pumpkin (and other winter squash) in tasty ways beyond pie.
Every Thanksgiving celebration seems to be complete with way too many leftovers, usually the turkey, pies, and dinner rolls. And really, how many leftover turkey sandwiches can you eat!? This holiday season, mix things up with some new recipes using your dinner leftovers and extra ingredients.
Often a day of candy, treats, and sugar, a healthy Halloween might be an oxymoron. By focusing more on getting dressed up and the fun of playing games and tricks, you can focus less on food and celebrate the festivities with healthier options.
September is Healthy Aging Month, and a great time to highlight nutrition needs of older adults. With advancing age, nutrient requirements change. Primarily, older adults need fewer calories but actually need more of many nutrients.
Summertime equals vacation time, and we want to enjoy it! But enjoying your vacation does not mean you have to forget about your health.
One tiny berry packs a nutritious and versatile punch as we celebrate the blueberry during National Blueberry Month. Starting in June and throughout the summer, look for subtly sweet blueberries growing locally in Illinois.
It's that time of year where fresh garden produce is more readily available. Whether from your own garden or the farmer's market down the street, that garden fresh taste is hard to beat.
School is ending for the year and kids everywhere are excited to start their summers. Whatever the kids are doing, make sure they eat healthy lunches this summer. For kids who will be staying home alone or with siblings, will they need to make their own lunches?
Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others.
Whenever I teach on food groups – to youth and adults – there are always a few foods I mention that overlap into two food groups. Not that we cannot put them into just one, but because foods have a lot of different nutrients, they might fit into more than one group.
This March, Nutrition & Wellness Extension Educators across Illinois are excited to celebrate the start of the "Illinois Nutrition Edition" blog. We write this collaborative blog to be your source for information on issues and trends related to food, nutrition, and health.

Who out there (besides me) loves peanut butter? I mean, could eat it every day, would die without it type of love it? And yes, as a Dietitian I admit, covering it in chocolate just takes it to whole now level of love. Did you know there is an entire month devoted to people like you and me? That's right National Peanut Butter Lover's month...which is happening NOW! So, we have Thanksgiving, National Diabetes month, AND Peanut Butter Lovers month all in November?! What a busy month for nutrition!

My fondest memories of my childhood summers center around our family vacations. Every year, in early August we would spend a week at my grandparents condo in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. It is here I learned all my open water know how-skiing, how to drive a boat, and most importantly, how to fish! I was an excellent fisherman-baiting and hooking crappie like a pro! And then learning how to flay them. On a good year, we would take several Zip-lock bags of frozen fish home to eat all year long.

Green bean casserole is a Thanksgiving classic that few American tables go without. The dish made of canned green beans, condensed mushroom soup, milk, and French fried onions can pack in over 700 milligrams of sodium and 7 grams of fat in just ½ cup. Luckily, it just takes a few tweaks to slash the sodium and cut down on a few extra calories.

Autumn means pumpkin-flavored everything and cheesecake is no exception! Sure, the pumpkin adds a bit of nutrition, but traditional recipes typically include a combination of full-fat cream cheese, heavy cream and/or sour cream -- plus sugar, eggs, and a buttery graham cracker crust. Try our rescued Upside Down Pumpkin Cheesecake for a fall treat that creamy, fluffy, and nutritious! (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

Its summer time and we all know what that means... It means spending time outdoors as much as possible, and catching some good ole sunshine! With all of that outdoor fun it gets hot, which leads you to crave something cold and refreshing, right? So reach for something that's refreshing, delicious, and even nutritious. Grab a frozen fruit pop!

Here's a recipe you can serve to mom this Mother's Day without the guilt! A friend shared a Stuffed French Toast Casserole recipe with me a few years ago. The original had a pound of regular cream cheese, a quart of half and half, and eight eggs. Amazingly indulgent, but more like a dessert than breakfast. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

Original Recipe Ingredients (serves 12)

Hello fall and hello pumpkin spice lattes!

Do you love fall flavors in your morning cup o' joe but hate spending the money?? Well, you're in the right place because there's no need to say goodbye to your hard earned cash. Instead of driving to the coffee shop, waiting in line, and spending more than necessary…you can make your own pumpkin spice latte (PSL) quickly at home for only $1 and half the calories, fat and sugar!

What you'll need:

Ever since I saw the grind your own nut butter machines at Fresh Market, I wanted to make my own peanut butter. It's simple in its truest form. What are the ingredients? Peanuts. That's it. No hydrogenated vegetable oil, no sugar, no molasses, no mono and diglycerides and no salt.

Making your own peanut butter is simple as long as you have a food processor. In a matter of 2 or 3 minutes, it will transform your crunchy peanuts into a smooth spread. Attach the chopping blade and start with no more than 3 cups of nuts for a 7 quart work bowl.

Ah, the smell of a campfire. Roasted marshmallows, hot dogs, fruit cobbler, foil packets of hobo stew…. there is nothing as good as simple food cooked over an open fire. I can almost taste it now! Whether it's a day at the park or a weekend camping trip, preparing and eating food outdoors takes some special consideration. Even if you are taking a dish to a family reunion, you need to follow some basic food safety steps.

Last but not least in Recipe Rescue: Thanksgiving Edition... pumpkin pie! Pumpkin pie is actually one of the healthier pie choices, relatively speaking. We've made some tweaks here and there, but the major change is simple portion control. Rather than serve smaller slices, amp up the fun factor with mini pumpkin pies!

Football season means appetizers galore. Get your next viewing party "popping" with these flavor-packed, crunchy Bacon & Cheese Jalapeno Poppers! (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

Mozzarella sticks are always a crowd pleaser, but with that fried cheesy goodness comes a lot of fat and calories. Here's a healthier version that's a delicious option to serve at parties or just make when you need a fix. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

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According to the National Peanut Board, the average American person will eat around 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the time they are 18 years old. If you are like me, then those delicious sandwiches are still a staple in your diet; but are they actually healthy for you? The answer is really based on reading labels. There is no doubt that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are packed with a high amount of calories and fat. However, with a little more research, the perfect PB&J can exist.

Growing hemp in Illinois?

Currently some states, including Illinois, allow hemp to be grown for research purposes. This past summer, Pat Quinn signed a bill making this possible but there are no funds attached which may make it difficult for this research to take place.

A hot trend in the grocery store these days, seeds are taking the "health food" section by storm. First there was flaxseed, then came chia seeds, now hemp seeds are all the rage. What's the deal with these crunchy, granola -like fare? But why are these seedlings are a good inclusion in your diet?

It seems as though salsa has become a more popular condiment than ketchup, as I see it accompany so many dishes at restaurants. Is this contributed to Americans' growing love of hot and spicy foods and interest in ethnic foods? Or are we merely trying to make healthier choices when dining? My hope is for the latter!

Americans gain one to two pounds between the Thanksgiving feast and the New Year countdown. Some do not lose those extra pounds and continually gain weight every year. Simple, smart selections can help avoid this annual obstacle and set up a positive start to 2015.

The best strategy for the holidays is to aim for weight maintenance. You can enjoy your traditional favorites, stay fit and not have the added stress of a strict diet during this hectic season.

Creamy alfredo sauce is almost a heart attack waiting to happen! Traditional sauces made with butter and heavy cream cram in 350 calories per 1/2 cup (and that's before the pasta)! Get your alfredo fix with my slimmed down sauce served over whole grain linguine, chicken, and broccoli. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

These days, so-called natural sugar substitutes are all the rage. Some are good old-fashioned favorites: honey, molasses, maple syrup. Others are newer to the scene, like agave nectar, stevia, and monkfruit extract.

But wait. What exactly is a sugar substitute? The terminology can be confusing. A sugar substitute refers to any sweetener that can be used to replace table sugar.

They are further divided into nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners. Nutritive sweeteners are those that have calories, while non-nutritive do not.

Healthy and cornbread are not two words that typically go together, but today they do! Traditional cornbread recipes typically include some combination of butter or bacon grease and buttermilk or sour cream along with cornmeal, flour, and other ingredients to make it rise. Sugar is also sometimes added to give the cornbread a sweeter note. So how do we make this traditional bread both tasty and healthy? (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

Labor Day marks the "end" of summer. Having just observed this holiday you might think the season is effectively over. Our yard's rampantly growing grass, my tan lines, and our 75 degree thermostat setting suggests other wise. As does my backyard garden, which is in FULL effect! One of the veggies I have growing in my garden this summer is zucchini. From baking to grilling, this guy is an all-star, versatile veggie of summer. Did you know squash is a member of the melon/cucumber family?

Corn dogs and cotton candy---what trip to the fair would be complete without them? Ask anyone what they enjoy most about the fair and many will say ---THE FOOD! The once a year treat can pack some big calories into your regular diet, so here are a few tips. Most of us know that the "Doughnut Burger" is probably a bad choice (1500 calories). However, we might be surprised by the better choices. Are you a sweet tooth person ? Or is it the salty snacks that you crave? Either way be prepared to amp up your exercise routine to "pay" for fair food.

It's December, and along with the possibility of snow, we can expect a flurry of holiday get-togethers. Naturally, I'll be tackling party favorites in the next several Recipe Rescue posts! I'm starting off with Buffalo Chicken Dip. Although this dip packs in satisfying protein, the fat and calories can add up with multiple servings and when you dip with chips. It only takes a few simple tweaks to make this recipe more waistline-friendly.

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

Dietitians don't always have the answers. We know what foods to eat and in what amounts for certain conditions, but it's not as cut-and-dried as just following the diet, especially when it comes to weight loss.

Weight management is the first line of treatment for many chronic health conditions. Calories in versus calories out. The formula works, but up to 95% of dieters gain it all back (and maybe then some) within 5 years. Why can't we make it stick?

Carrot cake has vegetables, so it's healthy.. right? Not so much. Between the rich, nutty cake and over the top sweet cream cheese frosting, you've got a carrot catastrophe! Try my version with a secret ingredient for a carrot cake that's far more waistline-friendly and still tastes great. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

I don't know about you, but I am fired up to fire up my grill after the brutal winter we had. Grilling is one of my favorite ways to prepare all types of foods — from the typical burgers, steaks and chicken to fish, vegetables and even fruit. It's a relatively low-fat preparation method, and the high temperatures help bring out delicious flavors (calorie-free) thanks to chemical reactions like caramelization and browning.

At the rate of sparing myself the embarrassment of my overgrown garden-I did not include any pictures of the inspiration of this post. The late harvest of tomatoes in my home garden more than my husband and I can possibly consume! We have made BLT's, salad, salsa (fresh and canned)...we are just out of ideas! This is situation has given way to my newest cooking project: homemade spaghetti sauce. Generally speaking, jarred pasta sauce isn't a food we think of as "unhealthy," simply because it is not a horrible choice of food.

A few years ago, hazelnut spread was something very few people ever heard of or tried before. Nutella® used to be the sole brand found on the market shelves. Suddenly, this creamy spread is being made by multiple big brand names, including Jif® and Hershey's™, as well as store-bought or off-brands.

So what exactly is it? The spread is made of hazelnuts, milk, sugar, cocoa, palm oil and other ingredients. It's generally regarded as an alternative to peanut butter. However, the nutrition facts are far from being the same.

One of my favorite lunchtime staples is a bowl of Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey and topped with some kind of trail mix or fruit and nut blend. I mean, dried fruit and nuts go together like peas and carrots. Chewy sweetness combined with rich, crunchy nuts is both satisfying and delicious.

But I was getting a bit bored with the usual peanut/almond/raisin combo, and also realized that trail mix is on the expensive side. So what's a girl to do? DIY it!

Dried Fruit Options:
Raisins
Cranberries (regular, orange-flavored, etc.)

Is there anything more American than apple pie? There's something about that buttery sweet filling and flaky crust that just hits the spot. But a typical slice can set you back nearly 500 calories, and that's not even a la mode or mile-high. Try a mini cinnamon-sugar apple pie instead for a perfectly portioned and satisfying down-home treat. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

We're just past Father's Day, but did you know that June overall is Men's Health Month? The media seems to pay a lot of attention to ladies' health issues, so let's not neglect the guys; men, too, have special nutritional concerns. Here's what you need to know to keep yourself (or — if you're a woman — the men in your life) healthy all year long.
Peach Cobbler is a very American summer favorite, but all that buttery sweet deliciousness means fat, sugar, and calories! Try my lightened version at this weekend's Memorial Day BBQ! (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

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The other day I was eating lunch in our staff break room with some of my coworkers. As I was assembling my lunch and adding my mandatory scoop of avocado atop my chicken and kale, my co -workers winced in disgust. "I can't eat avocado alone" they kept saying. Guacamole seems to be the only way Americans consume this fabulous food. And knowing why they are a healthy selection is also something most of us lack. We just know that guac tastes great on those tortilla chips!

Let's crack on open the nutritional profile of this wonder fruit.

March is National Nutrition Month and this year's theme is "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right." Given that taste is the biggest indicator of whether we will eat a food, the theme is certainly appropriate! With warmer weather on the way, I'm asking you, too, to bring the heat and try my favorite way to make healthy foods more exciting – by spicing it up.

Cold temps triggering a craving for comfort food? There's nothing better than a steaming bowl of chili on a crisp fall day, but it can be a bit high in calories when higher-fat ground beef is used. Whip up a batch of our hearty turkey chili for a meal that'll stick to your ribs but not your waistline. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

We Americans like to put our own spin on most international dishes, and orange chicken is no exception! Pile fried chicken pieces on top of fried rice and cover it all in a sticky sweet sauce and you've got a meal that's far from healthy. Can we rescue this restaurant favorite? (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

Lasagna has morphed from an Italian classic to an Americanized diet disaster. Typical recipes are filled with sausage and/or beef, carb-heavy noodles, plus gobs of ooey gooey cheese. We really don't need all that meat and cheese (translation: artery-clogging fat and waist-expanding calories). We may want it, but that's another story! I've cleaned up this recipe (sent to me by Cayla Waters of Urbana) and it's still cheesy and delicious. It's also reminiscent of another American/Italian favorite, pepperoni pizza. Buon appetito!

Howdy!

If you're like me, you cringe every time you have to throw away a piece of moldy or suspiciously smelly piece of food, produce, or leftovers. I hate wasting food, because it's like wasting my hard-earned money, especially when I know it can be prevented.

It makes sense that wasting less food will save you money. If you waste less food, then you can use the food you have for a longer period of time, and you won't have to buy items to replace the ones you lost. It really is a win-win situation.

There is such joy in enjoying the beauty of the seasons in healthy ways. Taking a walk to enjoy the gorgeous, colorful foliage, raking leaves with your family as a fun activity, and walking by foot to pick your own apples: these are just a few of my favorite fall fun activities. All of these activities can contribute to your daily physical activity, The current recommendation from the President's Council on Exercise is 250 of moderate OR 75 minutes of intense physical activity per week. Unfortunately, most Americans do not meet these suggested amounts.

If you are like many people struggling to keep the New Year's weight loss resolutions alive, March is a great month to help get back on track. The academy of nutrition and dietetics has designated March as National Nutrition Month. This year's theme is "Enjoy the taste of eating right." March will remind Americans that everyone has different food preferences, so let's find a way to make them nutritious without depriving ourselves.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by reporter Erica Quednau of WCIA-3's Current. Current, which airs after the Morning Show, focuses on a different theme each day and centers its stories around that topic. Obesity was the topic for that coming Thursday, and would I be willing to share my experience?

If you didn't know my story, you'd probably think I've always been healthy and fit. Perhaps you'd be be more inclined to take my advice, since it appears that I'm doing something right. At the same time, you might think I come off as holier than thou.

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Fall is filled with little pleasures – every year I eagerly anticipate sipping hot apple cider on crisp autumn afternoons, se

There is a common misconception that everyone should drink two liters (68 ounces, or about eight 8-oz glasses) of water per day however this is not supported by scientific research. It is however a good rule of thumb. But why is this not an accurate statement? Well, it is because an individual's need for water will vary depending on their body composition, activity level, diet and environmental factors such as temperature and humidity.

Pro= “supporting”…biotics= “life”

Where do probiotics come from?

The World Health Organization calls probiotics the “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

Humble and Hearty, root vegetables are the earthiest of produce and can add a variety of colors and flavors to your fall meals. Low in fat and calories, many roots serve as good sources of fiber which we all know is favorable for digestion, preventative for disease like heart disease and cancer, and also helps control blood sugar levels which is beneficial for diabetes and weight management.

Have you heard? The FDA recently announced plans to revamp the Nutrition Facts label.

This tool was introduced more than 20 years ago (!) and was designed to help consumers make food choices in the supermarket. Many people think this information has made it even more challenging to figure out food facts.

When it comes to comfort food, macaroni and cheese is as classic as you can get. But forget the boxed versions -- if you're going to have the mac, do it right. Macaroni and cheese from scratch is far more satisfying, and you have better control over what goes in it. Unfortunately, some recipes go a little overboard, packing close to 800 calories per serving! Try my recipe that's creamy and cheesy, and fits more easily into a healthy, balanced diet. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

Hash brown casserole is comfort food at its best, but not so comforting for your waistline. Try this healthier version that's cuts out fat and calories but keeps all the flavor! A perfect dish for your next brunch or potluck. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

They're a cool and creamy summer treat, but you can end up sipping over 500 calories in just a few minutes. Can you have your milkshake and drink it, too? With a few recipe tweaks, yes! (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipes!)

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“What’s this whole thing about eating whole grains? At least half of my grains need to be whole grains?! Geez – how am I going to cram that much into my diet when I don’t have that much money to spend on food anyway?! All this healthy stuff is too expensive…I give up…”

Gluten free, low sugar, no fat---doesn't that sound like a yummy Thanksgiving dinner? We could be describing a trend in modern dieting,however, what we are talking about is the first Thanksgiving. When coloring hand traced turkeys and making paper bag vests in elementary school we learned that the Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered for a feast when their harvest was complete.

As you may have heard, the Nutrition Facts panel is about to undergo renovations. Seems like the same old story. Just when you've gotten used to something, it up and changes.

But change isn't always bad, and we need it in order to move forward. To get a better idea of whether this one is good or bad, let's first recount the history of the Nutrition Facts label.

Butternut squash soup sounds healthy enough. I mean, it's gotta be good for you... it's got vegetables! Right? Yes, you're getting lots of good stuff from the squash - vitamin A, fiber, potassium, and so on.

But butternut squash soup typically includes high-fat ingredients like cream for silky texture and sausage to add a savory element. And don't forget about the bread you might use to mop it up! This simple meal-starter can have as many calories as your main dish.

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Caprese Pasta Salad

Makes 18 cups


Ingre

Dr. Mehmet Oz – talk about a polarizing personality. I get questions all the time about the latest supplements and diets about which he's waxed poetic. Usually I just roll my eyes at his outrageous claims and explain why they're not worth the time or money. But thanks to recent events, it's no longer business as usual.

Every year, Illinoisans all over the state take advantage of farmers' markets for local, fresh, in-season produce. In fact, Illinois is ranked #3 in the nation for having the highest number of farmers' markets. Farmers' markets are a great place to enjoy the outdoors while shopping for good deals on local fruits, vegetables, and other specialty items like fresh bread, cheeses, cakes, and jam. It's also a great way to spend active leisure time with family and children, as there is often entertainment and sometimes kid-friendly activities.

Recently, the sweet potato (but not the regular potato) has been touting the sought after "super food" status that all foods strive to bear...and all health and fitness buffs swear by.

But what about the sweet potato's pale, pasty brother, the regular potato? He's become nothing but a carbohydrate rich ghost that would sooner be fed to the pigs than eaten by someone of health conscious mind. Or so it appears.

So, the question is: in a throw down between these tubers- is one truly better than the other?

First, lets look at what they have in common...

Farmers market season is almost upon us, a sure sign that spring is finally here. After a seemingly endless winter, many are ready to get outside and browse the stalls filled with colorful, fresh produce.

And if you don't already frequent farmers markets, you might want to consider a trip. But why?

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Apple donuts - the quintessential fall-time treat. But donuts, no matter what their flavor (even if they have fruit!), are typically high in fat, sugar, and calories. Fried and smothered in sugar or glaze sure makes them delicious, but you can get your donut fix without all the extras. No need to take a trip to the apple orchard or bakery - try this baked apple donut recipe that comes together as quickly as they'll fly off the plate! (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

It's state fair season! If you can't make it out to the fairgrounds and need a funnel cake fix, you can have it any time of year with this healthier alternative. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

As we've posted before, canning is a great way to use the foods you have grown in your garden or have purchased from your local farmers' market. Canning allows us to enjoy the wonderful tastes of summer all year long, but to keep your food safe, you have to know which method of canning to use.

There are two methods of canning, water boiling canning and pressure canning. The processing method you will use depends on the acidity of the food.

In case you were curious, the maximum monthly allowance for SNAP (aka Food Stamps) participants is this:

Family of 1: $189.00 = $47.25/week
Family of 2: $ 347.00 = $86.75
Family of 3: $ 497.00 = $124.25
Family of 4: $ 632.00 = $158.00

Whether or not you qualify for Food Stamps, with the rising cost of food, are you spending your food dollars as efficiently as possible?


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March is National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign created by the American Dietetic Association. T

When you think of yogurt, what comes to mind? Words like, fruity, smooth, creamy, and sweet. Perhaps visions of smoothies or parfaits dance through you head. Some of us health minded folks might think the health benefit of probiotics, as mentioned in this previous post by my colleague, Kristin. I highly doubt anyone's first thought is "delicious and healthy sauces!" but hopefully after reading this, you will!

Leia-

I have a recipe that everyone in our family LOVES - but it has to be the most fattening dish ever invented. Is there anything you can do with it to make it healthier?

It is yummy, and there's never a smidge left over. However, I'd rather not kill everyone in the family by bringing it to all the family gatherings. Might as well call it "heart attack casserole"! Help!

-Barbara

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

Original Recipe Ingredients (serves 12)

They say that sex sells, and ain't that the truth? Yet so many people shy away from discussing it in public.

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And seeking help when there's trouble in the bedroom? Yeah right. Like any other aspect of health, we're quick to look for cure-alls.

Summer has gone by quickly yet again, and now is the time when backyard gardens and supermarket bins alike are overflowing with tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, and more. That's all fine and dandy from a nutritional standpoint – these vegetables are chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. But when you've got squash "coming out of your ears," what more can you do? You can only eat so much zucchini bread and put up so many green beans.

Today we're making over an all-American summer side dish – pasta salad! Mayo-based dishes like potato salad or macaroni salad can be filled with fat and calories. I think summer food should be light and tasty, so I took on the challenge of making over this Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad recipe. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

Health Benefits and Risks of Eating Fish

Fish is an important part of a balanced diet. It provides essential fatty acids, lean protein, and several vitamins and minerals (zinc, iron, calcium, selenium, iodine, Vitamins A, D, E and B Vitamins).

The types of fats found in fish are referred to as polyunsaturated fatty acids and these are heart healthy fats (unlike the saturated fats found in red meat, butter, and fried foods). By consuming fats, you are also helping your body absorb certain vitamins (A, D, E & K).

Eggs! The wonderful protein –cheap, easy to prepare and versatile! You can poach, boil, coddle, bake or fry them. Fold them into an omelet or bake them in a casserole. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack, eggs are a perfect addition to anyone's diet. Why not eggs?

"All that and a bag of chips"---this phrase is usually a slam against someone who is conceited or arrogant. Perhaps the phrase originates in the concept of completeness; a meal complete with a "bag of chips". The phrase itself got me to thinking…."and a bag of chips" is ubiquitous in our society, not in the personality description, but on the menu side of things. How many school lunchboxes contain a sandwich, drink AND a bag of chips? I attend several meetings wherein a lunch is served usually including a sandwich and you guessed it, a bag of chips.

Have you ever gotten an e-mail, text, or letter that made you go, "Wow, what is her problem?" In text, short sentences and using lots of periods can convey curtness. In person, the same message is tempered by facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice. The written word is tricky – so much can be lost in translation.

As an Extension Educator, it can be quite challenging to discuss food and nutrition in person, and even more so in written form, as with this column and on social media.

We love customizable burritos and bowls, but do you know how to make yours diet-friendly? The giant tortilla, rice, beans, and corn make it a carb fest, while cheese and sour cream ramp up the fat. Roll it all together (literally!) and the calorie count - like the burrito - is as "big as your head."  If you love going out for Mexican but don't love going home feeling like you're going to explode, you've got to try this dish. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

The kids are back in school, so what better time to make over everyone's favorite cafeteria classics? Fried finger foods like chicken nuggets and "tater tots" are high-fat and not the best choice for growing brains and bodies. (Not to mention for adults watching their weight.) Our faux-fried versions find a happy medium between good nutrition and kid-friendly fun! (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

June is National Dairy Month, a time to celebrate all the nutritious benefits of milk, cheese and yogurt. But what if you don't do dairy? Whether it's for food preferences, religious purposes or health reasons, there are lots of reasons why people may not partake. Food companies have responded by developing scores of products to meet those needs, and I get lots of questions about the nutritional benefits of each. I don't have enough space here to discuss them all, so I'll focus on cereal's best friend: milk. Or milk alternatives, that is.

Fact or Fiction? The average person will gain between 7-10 pounds over the holiday season (mid-November-January).

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Images courtesy of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Illinois official spring hunting season is here. No, I am not talking about wild turkey

his post comes from us courtesy of an intern I have had the pleasure of working with past week. Lauren Furgiuele, an intern from the Iowa State University Dietetic Internship program has lent her personal experiences in the kitchen to this blog entry on experimenting with substitutions to make dishes more nutritious.

Working in the nutrition field, I'm pretty much always thinking about food.

Spinach artichoke dip sounds healthy, but does it live up to the name? Not so much. Sure, spinach and artichokes are on the ingredient list, but the dip is really more about the creamy, gooey cheese than veggies. My philosophy is that if you're going to indulge, why not get some extra nutrition? I've taken this fat-laden favorite and made spinach the star player, with plenty of cheesy deliciousness to spare.

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

What do kale, dark chocolate, red wine, pumpkin, salmon, flax, walnuts, broccoli all have in common?

Everyone back on a normal sleep schedule? Check. New shoes broken in? Check. Backpacks fully loaded? Check. Frozen pizza for dinner? Wait a minute.

Life is hectic, and maybe even more so around the change of seasons when the kids head back to school. Yes, frozen dinners and takeout meals are easy. Yes, they taste good. No, they are not the best option for growing bodies and brains. Not to mention that there are better choices for us adults, too.

Fudgy or cakey, who doesn't love a good brownie? But they can pack hundreds of calories in just one small square. Here's a healthier version with 50% less fat and only 150 calories, with the added deliciousness of a cream cheese swirl. Yum! (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

This is my third post now touting the health benefits of sprouts, and inspired by a recent study published in the Journal of Cancer Prevention Research.

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Mothers tend to take better care of others than they do of themselves in some cases, but there is one way to help all mothers this M

Each year, the summer season signals the arrival of juicy, sweet peaches. In the United States, most peaches are grown in California, Georgia, and South Carolina. Unfortunately, our cold temperatures in Illinois are not typically suited for abundantly growing this wonderful fruit tree.

 

Pita chips are the perfect vehicle for all sorts of dips. They're super easy to make at home, so why not?

Start with 6" whole grain pitas. Using kitchen shears, cut them into pieces and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet prepped with nonstick spray.

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Want to make a small change that will have lasting health benefits? Try cutting down on salt!

One easy way to do this is by using more herbs and spices in cooking. Fresh or dried, either can enhance the flavor of any dish.

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Pairing Foods with Herbs and Spices

A muffin makes a quick and easy breakfast when you're in a rush, but oversized baked goods can set you on the path for poor eating the rest of the day. Make your own muffins at home to save calories AND cash. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

Protein foods like beef, poultry, pork, and seafood take up the largest proportion of our food budgets. You can find deals at the market, but there are things we can do to save money even when meat isn't on sale.

At the deli counter, specifically, lunch meats can be somewhat expensive because it's a convenience food. Deli meats can also be very high in sodium (even the lower-sodium versions). By making your own meat for sandwiches, you can control the nutrition... what goes in it, and what doesn't.

Low-fat beliefs

'Diet', 'weight loss', 'low-fat'…these terms usually go hand-in-hand and when looking at Gallup poll data from 2012 on Americans' views on best diets, Americans tend to lean toward low-fat rather than low-carb diets if and when they choose to do so.

Remember Chia Pets? What ever happened to those things? Nowadays chia is having a second life as a nutritional "it" item. Recently there has been a surge in cia products- Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to fruit drinks, snack foods and cereals; baked in cookies and sprinkled on yogurt now more than ever before! Why the all the rage? Because chia seeds can be a healthful addition to your diet!

This time of year finds families scrambling into the chaotic fall school sport schedules. In addition to making sure your young athletes have the necessary sport gear, it is also important that you make sure they are fueled up for their game or match. Many young athletes have nothing to eat from their 11:00 lunch time until after the game or practice. This leaves them hungry and not able to play up to their potential. How can you avoid the drive-through?

As with many stressful situations this can be handled with a little organization. Plan ahead.

On this New Year's Eve, you're probably thinking about your resolutions for 2015. If they're the same as last year's (and maybe the year before), you might you say you failed in 2014.

I disagree.

The path to success is rarely a straight line. I'm confident that if you asked any CEO how he or she got to the top, the answer would have something to do with hard work and paying dues with plenty of knocks down the ladder along the way.

In our last post we discussed what to consider when cooking with herbs. Today, we will explore substituting dried herbs for fresh (and vice versa), provide examples of great pairings for herbs and vegetables, and share the nutritional benefits of seasoning your favorite dishes with vegetables.

Water; sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose), starch, fiber , amino acids (glutamic acid, aspartic acid, his-tidine, leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, arginine, valine, alanine, serine, glycine, threonine, isoleucine, proline, tryptophan, cysteine, tyrosine, methionine), fatty acids: palmitic acid, omega-6 linoleic acid, omega-3 linolenic acid, oleic acid, palmitoleic acid, stearic acid, lauric acid, myristic acid, capric acid, ash, phytosterols, oxalic acid, tocopherol, phylloquinone, thiamin, riboflavin, flavoring (ethyl hexanoate, ethyl butanoate, 3-methylbut-1-ylethanoate, pentyl acet

Let's face it, eating healthy is tough. It can be expensive, time consuming, and it doesn't taste as good as eating junk food. There is no magical food that will help in this task, but smoothies might be the ticket to helping you with your healthy habits. Here are 8 reasons why you should add smoothies to your diet.

 

What kind of fats and oils do you cook with? Do you reach for whatever you have on hand or do you take into consideration the smoke point, flavor, and method of cooking?

One might think that as long as the oil does its job of keeping your food from sticking to the pan than you're good to go…but think again!

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If you are anything like me, you welcome the blazing sunny days of summer. Every chance I get, I am poolside soaking up the sun. What's better than a summe

I want to let you all in on a little secret: dietitians do not eat perfectly! I really do enjoy fresh, wholesome, colorful foods, but I also include a little bit of "junk." I have a huge sweet tooth-total chocolate addict! All shapes and forms! One being chocolate pudding! A super comfort food and childhood favorite, this dessert has very little nutritive value in it. Try my whimsical healthy twist on this classic using some unexpected ingredients: bananas and avocados!

Traditional Chocolate Pudding

(6-8, ½ c servings)

Would your Thanksgiving table be complete without sweet potato casserole? I know mine wouldn't! My grandma always made hers with canned sweet potatoes, loads of butter and sugar, plus a to-die-for topping of sugary spiced pecans. The taste is over-the-top, and so are the nutritional stats! I've taken it down a notch in the sugar and fat department, but you'll be just as satisfied with this lightened up side dish. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)
Tortilla chips are a mainstay in Mexican restaurants and home kitchens alike! They're the perfect vehicle for all kinds of dips - salsa, guacamole, French onion, spinach artichoke, the list goes on and on. Problem is, tortilla chips are usually fried and salted, making them high in fat, sodium, and calories.

Cut down on sodium, fat, and calories plus boost the fiber by making your own dip-able chips at home. Plus, see our cost comparison below!

Nutrition Facts Face-Off!

1 ounce bagged chips vs. 1 ounce homemade chips

Pancakes are usually just a vehicle for butter and syrup, which can end up slowing you down mid- morning. Try these protein-packed pancakes instead, with lots of room for creativity. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

Here in the Midwest, home canning has been a way of life for many since before they could even remember. But home canning has enjoyed a surge in popularity in the past few years, thanks to Americans' increased interest in the local food movement and desire to be economical in the wake of our recession.

Today's post was written by: Whitney Ajie, MS, is an Extension Educator for the Illinois Nutrition Education Programs serving Sangamon, Logan and Menard Counties. She specializes in nutrition and physical activity education for low-income audiences, shopping and eating healthy on a budget, increasing food access, and obesity prevention.