It's a fresh new year, which has many American's looking for a change. For some, it's time to slim down and seek diet advice. However, most advice comes in the form of foods to cut out. For a refreshing change, consider these five foods to add in.

Gumbo and jambalaya are two signature dishes of southern Louisiana that are both native to Cajun and creole cuisine. While the two cuisines are often used interchangeably, there are notable differences stemming from their cultural roots.

Have you ever walked into a room to get something but then forgot what it was you were going to get? Don't worry; it happens to all of us at some point. But keeping your brain fit is more than just doing crossword puzzles or word searches. There is increasing evidence that brain health is directly related to body health. That means diet and exercise are not just important for the heart, but also the brain.

Sandwiches can be a quick go-to meal when there's nothing else in the cabinets to fix. They're ideal to pack in lunch bags but can also be the perfect fill-you-up food at a local sandwich shop. Americans are crazy about their sandwiches. But how do we make one of these creations delicious without tightening the waistbands?

As we head into the fair season, it's quite possible that you may come across a gyro stand. Gyros, a popular Greek sandwich, are traditionally made with roasted lamb on a vertical spit and served on pita bread with tomato and onion. Gyros are most commonly topped with tzatziki sauce, made with plain yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, lemon juice and dill or parsley.

Baking often requires precise measurements, but if you're not sure how to measure correctly, your fabulous recipe may turn into a frightful flop. Professional chefs make it look so easy by just tossing in a pinch of this or a dash of that, but if you're a newbie to cooking or just like following the "rules," it's best to pull out the measuring utensils.

By now you and your children should be in the routine of being back in school. This is the perfect time to re-evaluate your family's meals.

Have you ever wondered what the sweetest fruit in the world is? If you go by sugar content, you may be surprised to learn that it is the date. Dates have over 60% sugar content. However, in terms of taste, the Guinness Book of World Records lists the Philippine mango called Caraboa, as the sweetest fruit in the world. In comparison, it has less than 20% sugar content.

I recently was asked the question: should I peel my apple to rid any pesticides that may be present, or leave it unpeeled for its potential health benefits? While my answer was ultimately "leave it unpeeled," it's not quite as simple as that.

Many of us may already know that leaving the peel on is generally superior in nutrition than if you were to peel it. But does it make that much difference? According to the USDA Nutrient Database, one medium apple with the peel on has nearly double the fiber, 20% more potassium and 40% more vitamin A! That's certainly worth it!

Feng shui is the Chinese philosophical art of balancing energies in the surrounding environment for good health. The kitchen is often the busiest room in the house, where good flow and energy is essential to produce healthy meals, keep food safe, and circulate the kids, adults and pets that walk through it each day. While these certainly aren't true feng shui techniques, they are helpful hints to keeping your kitchen the heart of the home.

When asked what my favorite herb is, I'd have to go with basil. Not only is it fragrant and flavorful, but it's also a beautiful plant. Basil is an annual herb belonging to the mint family. It's so easy to grow that even I, a wannabe gardener with a black thumb, cannot kill it.

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If you were haunted by childhood memories of having to force down a bite of Brussels sprouts before getting dessert, it's time to give those little green balls another chance. Modern cooking techniques have turned what was once a mushy, bitter miniature cabbage into a complex sweet and nutty vegetable with a subtle crunch.

This week's blog post is written by University of Illinois student intern, Brett Loman.

Sometimes it's just easier to have your kids play in the other room while you throw dinner together, but are you making the right choice? Recent research suggests that kids who are involved in meal preparation are more likely to eat the foods that they make, consume more fruits and vegetables, and maybe even maintain a healthier weight.

Cilantro is an herb that most people either love or hate. And some studies have indicated that the haters may actually have good reason; people with certain odor-detecting genes pick up a soapy smell and taste when they eat cilantro. However, scientists agree that although someone may have this particular gene, he or she may still be able to overcome their distaste for cilantro.

Getting your child to eat vegetables can be a challenging task. If you've ever seen them dig a hole in their pile of cooked carrots or shovel some peas underneath their plate to make it look like they've actually eaten them, you may have considered hiding a few veggies in some of their favorite foods. But is this a good practice?

This blog post is written by Taylor Streitmatter, student-intern from Illinois State University!

There's just something about eating food on a stick that brings out your inner child-being. Popsicles, corndogs, and cotton candy were kid-favorites, but now that you're an adult, you may have a bit more refined tastes. Kebabs (or kebobs) can satisfy your fun-loving nature and grown-up taste buds. Popular in Turkish cuisine, shish kebabs refers to "gobbets of roasted meat." Traditionally, marinated lamb and seasoned vegetables were threaded on skewers and then grilled over hot coals. However, beef, chicken and seafood may also be used and either roasted or grilled.

Mangoes are a sweet and juicy tropical fruit grown in many parts of the world. While you may not see many of them grown here in the States, we can still get a taste of them thanks to countries like Mexico, Brazil, Haiti, and Ecuador, which harvest mango crops year round.

This week's blog post is written by Illinois State University student, Jade Umberger.

"I have green beans coming out of my ears!" This is the time of year when the garden is lush that I hear that phrase often. It makes me reminisce back to my childhood days of snapping hundreds of green beans until my tiny fingers hurt. Green beans are actually immature dry beans that taste the sweetest when they're young. Green beans are sometimes still referred to as string beans because of the fiber that developed along the string of the pod.

Beans are a wonderful source of protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, iron, folate and potassium. Choosing dried beans over canned is generally a healthy idea since canned beans tend to be loaded with sodium. However, certain dried beans can be very harmful if not prepared correctly.

Buying seafood can be a confusing task. How do you know which has the lowest amount of contaminants, the highest amount of nutrients, and is labeled correctly? These are good questions to ask before feeding your family.

By this time, we may already be burnt out on sweets. Sugar cookies, pecan pies, caramels, divinity and fudge have been hard to resist. But with the New Year quickly approaching its time to get back on track. So does that mean we have to forgo all the wonderful sweet treats?

Since the grocery store seems to be my home-away-from-home these days, I have no problems telling you the exact layout of all the departments, including where to find the quinoa, hummus and tamari sauce. But I only recently began to notice the bulk bin aisle, an up-and-coming trendy spot to shop.

I'm going to assume that you probably didn't know that during March we celebrate National Frozen Food Day. Yes, there is a day for everything! But thanks to the frozen food industry and modern technology, there's a wide assortment of conveniently packaged and prepared meals, appetizers, desserts and more available at our fingertips. We know that these foods are certainly convenient, but are they healthy?

The cost of celery is cheap, making it a staple in kitchens around the world. But it's not just used for making "ants on a log" (peanut butter spread on celery and topped with raisins.) Celery gives a crunch to a salad, or flavor to soups, pot roasts or stir-fries. But what if your recipe calls for celery root? Can regular celery be substituted?

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Some people believe that they hate to cook, but often find that what they actually hate is the decision process: What should I fix? What will the whole family eat? What's quick? It's much easier to make those decisions when the plan is already in place. In fact, you may decide that you actually like to cook!

Fruit juice may be part of your morning breakfast routine, but some argue that even the natural sugar found in 100 percent juice, is partially responsible for the obesity epidemic and the debilitating diseases that may follow. But does the fruits' healthy vitamins and antioxidants trump any negative influences it may have on our bodies?

Unless you're a foodie like me, it's probably unlikely that your Thanksgiving dinner conversation entailed a hot debate of whether or not you were eating sweet potatoes or yams. "Why isn't it called a yam casserole?" asks my aunt. "Because it's made with sweet potatoes, not yams," I answered. "No, it's not; the label at the grocery store said yam," argued my aunt. "Yes, but it's a sweet potato, not a yam." The squabble was finally settled after the mention of one word: "google."

There's probably not too many school cafeterias that aren't serving the classic, sloppy joes. What kid doesn't like a sandwich that has the name "sloppy" in it? But these beefy rolls aren't just for youngsters. They're perfect when needing a quick meal.

There's a cornbread and chili competition coming up in my office and I've been tinkering with many cornbread recipes, making my husband very happy. Cornbread is quick and easy to make and can have many variations to choose from and hundreds of entrees to pair it with.

Being a "foodie," I have many kitchen tools that I love dearly, and I sometimes wonder how I ever lived without them. The rasp grater is one of those tools that went from being a "nice-to-have" to a "gotta-have-it."

Snacking is a daily occurrence for American adults. As reported in the Food Surveys Research Group Dietary Data Brief No. 4, the average number of snacks consumed each day by American adults nearly doubled over the last 30 years. Not only are we physically eating more, but these snacks are also more calorie dense. Sugar sweetened beverages account for 14% of snack calories for both men and women, alcoholic beverages account for 16% of snack calories for men, and savory snacks, such as chips, account for 12% of snack calories for women.

In many households, coloring Easter eggs is a wonderful family tradition, and with the invention of Easter egg dye kits, it's easy to create fun egg art. But have you ever wondered how people colored eggs before packaged dye kits became available? Eggs were dyed with natural ingredients, such as yellow onion skins, leaves of plants, and colorful berries. Just look in your fridge or pantry to see what natural egg dyes you have on hand, and start coloring!

Water is pretty straightforward. That is until you realize that you can not only drink tap water, filtered water, spring water or natural mineral water, but you can also buy sparkling water, seltzer water, tonic water or club soda. Are you confused by the differences? You're not the only one!

Memorial Day weekend is well-known for delicious cookouts. And while many families will be grilling up the usual hotdogs and burgers, others may be looking for something a little different. Throw a foil pack on the grill this year, and marvel at the no-mess meal you just created!

First of all, there really are no "good" foods and "bad" foods. While certainly, there are many foods that severely lack nutritional value, it doesn't mean that you have to wave goodbye to them forever. Even the worst of foods can still make their way into a healthy diet as long as they are surrounded and overtaken by healthier foods. But the holidays bring an uneven weight toward unhealthy food, so knowing the "best" versus the "worst" can help you navigate toward a healthier plate.

The best:

When you have a craving for an Asian-inspired meal, consider stir-frying. The pleasant aroma of garlic, ginger and fresh vegetables will send the whole family into the kitchen begging for food. It's not just a winner for the kids, parent's love that it's a quick, easy, veggie-composed meal that can even turn leftovers into a whole new dish. Here are some helpful hints:

Thanks to the increasing popularity of hummus, chickpeas are gaining momentum in the fight to be in your cupboards. Also called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a legume and are widely used in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. Besides grinding them into a delicious hummus, perfect for dipping vegetables, chickpeas can be used for many other dishes.

September is National Mushroom Month and with mushrooms unique flavor and versatility, there's no reason not to eat these fungi. While, yes, edible mushrooms are not a vegetable but rather a seemingly unattractive and often colorless fungus, they can be considered a delicacy that has surprisingly good nutrition stats. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, a good source of potassium, and rich in many vitamins. There are thousands of different varieties, but here are a few of the most common:

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, the United States produces roughly 9 billion pounds of apples each year, a distant second from China. While the state of Washington is our lead producer, it may be surprising to hear that every state in the U.S. produces apples. The availability of apples is convenient, but with over 7,500 different varieties, it leaves questions as to which apple variety to choose.

Is there a difference between broth and stock? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some will say there's a world of a difference, while others will tell you it's the same exact thing. If you ask me, I say use them interchangeably.

Holiday decorations are already crowding the stores, which means all the holiday foods and treats will soon be crowding our tummies. But if we start a healthy routine now, we just might be able to make it through all the temptations and traditions without gaining a pound. We've all heard the advice to get fit, eat right and stay healthy, but how exactly do we do that in this busy world? Follow my lead as I take you through a "typical" day, but remember that not every day is going to be exactly the same.

Some southern Illinois orchards will be booming with stone fruits, including peaches and cherries. But because these fruits along with apricots, plums, and nectarines prefer warmer climates without as much risk for a spring frost, they may be few and far between in Illinois backyards. Nonetheless, they should not be forgotten, and if you find a local source, hold on to it!

If you have children at home you're probably all too familiar with the loads of candy you're child receives in the month of October. While we all know that overloading our children with sugary treats isn't the healthiest, how can we lessen the temptations, but still not deprive our children of the fun?

This weeks blog post is written by Illinois State University graduate student-intern, Jeanne Arbuckle.

Do you ever wonder why spinach is green, why strawberries taste sweet, or why basil smells so good? It's all thanks to the plants phytochemical composition. Phytochemicals are a variety of compounds produced by plants that may be responsible for its unique color, taste, and smell. Researchers believe there are over 4,000 different phytochemicals, but to get into the 4th of July spirit, we'll just talk about the phytochemicals that make a plant red, white or blue!

Artificial sweeteners have endured a lot of controversy over the years. We've been told they cause cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, digestive problems, and more. Yet, credible organizations, such as the National Cancer Institute, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and American Heart Association are not telling us to stop using them. So what gives?