A wooden spoon full of wheat germ with text

If you’ve ever heard of adding wheat germ to your foods, you may have wondered what it is and why you would add it. Wheat germ is simply a component of the whole grain wheat kernel. In fact, all whole grains are composed of the bran, the endosperm and the germ. Each component contains valuable nutrients.

Sliced zucchini on a cutting board with text

This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic student, Shelby Holt.

With the rising trends surrounding ‘zoodles, this famous squash is growing more popular every day! Zucchini is a low-calorie summer squash, free of sodium, cholesterol, and fat. It is grown and prepared best from June through October. While most people would consider zucchini a vegetable because of the way we cook, prepare, and eat it, zucchini is botanically considered a fruit!

A wicker basket with an assortment of green and black grapes. Text says, 'the great benefits of grapes'.

Grapes are a popular fruit in my household, as they’re easy for my kids to snack on. Thanks to many seedless varieties, they don’t require any peeling or slicing, they’re not messy, and they’re deliciously sweet. Illinois grapes are available July through October. Unlike many other fruits, grapes will not continue to ripen once picked so you should harvest them when plump and juicy. If you’re not consuming local grapes, chances are your grapes were grown in California, the top grape producing state in the U.S. 

A person washing their hands under a sink faucet. Text says, 'food safety education month'.

September is Food Safety Education Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans get sick with foodborne illness each year. Lucky for us, food poisoning is preventable; but we all must work together to protect ourselves and each other. What’s your food safety questions? Here are a few that I’ve received since working at University of Illinois Extension:

Red apples on the left side, green apples on the right side, with text that says "it's apple season!"

Apple season is here! Make way for apple pie, apple cider, apple crisp, caramel apples and more. Apples are available year-round in supermarkets, but the experience of your own apple-picking at a local orchard brings a whole new level of excitement to this popular fruit.

A green smoothie in a clear glass with a pink straw on a pink plate

This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic student, Dylis-Judith Mensah. 

A row of tacos with text that says, 'taco time'.

Americans have a love for tacos. Whether they’re served at the family dinner table, a business meeting, or as a late-night snack at a local bar, tacos have made their way as being one of America’s most adored food. Afterall, any time of the day is the right time of the day to eat tacos!

A beach with a surfboard propped up in the sand

Many people are longing to get away this year, and what better way to pursue happiness than a trip to the beach? The silky sand and gorgeous water views are perfect for relaxing in the sun. But a day on the beach requires some planning to keep yourself nourished and hydrated.

A side view of a BLT sandwich with bread, mayonnaise, bacon, tomato, and lettuce. Text says 'crafting the perfect BLT'

If you had to name one summer sandwich, chances are you’d name the ever-famous BLT. Not a summer goes by without me making this super simple sandwich. If you don’t already know, BLT stands for bacon, lettuce, and tomato, which are the key ingredients to this lunch icon. Of course, one could say bread and mayo are also important elements, but I guess BLTBM just doesn’t sound as appetizing!

A bunch of tomatoes of various shapes and colors in a wooden box. Text says 'How to use your heirloom tomatoes'

Is it pronounced toMAto or tomAHto? Is it a fruit or a vegetable? There are so many questions when it comes to tomatoes! But there’s one thing I think we can all agree on: the taste of a fresh garden tomato is no comparison to store-bought tomatoes that were picked unripe and traveled thousands of miles to their destination.

A funnel cake with powdered sugar on a white paper plate. Text says, "How to enjoy fair food without going overboard."

Many of the fairs and festivals we missed last year are back and ready to entertain. Deep fried candy bars, onion blossoms, and fried cheese curds are a “must-have” for some, but nutritional nightmares for cardiologists. The question is can we enjoy our favorite fair foods while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle?

A tray of green beans set in front of an air fryer.

This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Joo Yee Lim.

A person's hand is shown pouring balsamic vinegar into a white bowl.

Once I discovered how to put balsamic vinegar to good use, this vinegar fought it’s way from the depths of rarely used ingredients in my kitchen pantry, to the easy-to-reach shelf, directly in front and right next to the olive oil. It flavors most all my vegetables from Brussel sprouts to carrots to green beans and more.

A slice of a watermelon on a paper towel with a pink background

Melon is one the most sought-after fruit of the summer. Watermelon, muskmelon and honeydew all contain about 90 percent water, making them a popular sweet, juicy fruit for summer barbecues. If you’ve ever been confused about the difference between a muskmelon or a cantaloupe, you’re not alone. The terms are used interchangeably, but they are not technically the same thing. Truth be told, those cantaloupes you’ve been purchasing at the store are actually muskmelons, as a true cantaloupe is smaller and not grown in the U.S.

A bunch of daikon radishes with green stems attached

Most people are familiar with radishes, those red-skinned, white-flesh, peppery vegetables often found on a salad bar. However, there are many other radishes, such as the daikon radish, that look completely different and yield a slightly altered taste.

A spoon scooping ghee out of a glass jar. Flowers on the table around the jar.

You may have heard about a type of fat, often used in Indian and Asian cuisine, called ghee. It’s been touted as having many health benefits, including decreased inflammation and improved digestion. However, is there any evidence to support these claims?

Two cups of coffee on platers with a leaf design in the foam.

Do you start your day with a cup of joe? My children now ask me if I’ve remembered my coffee as we pile into the car to drive to school and work. They know how important this cup of goodness is and how it can send me into a frenzy when I don’t have it. But is this everyday caffeine intake good for us or should we drop the habit?

a campfire in the forest

I recently took my family on a weekend camping trip, where we experienced the great outdoors. We enjoyed the beautiful nature, the company of family and of course, the food. While we had the typical hot dog and hamburger meals, with two young children, I still got the request of “pizza.” No oven? No problem! There are a lot of meals that can be made over a campfire or grill.

A white plate with gold silverware and text that says "are you tired of cooking, too?"

I recently had a few conversations with friends and coworkers that all talked about how they are tired of cooking. I, myself, joined in or even started the discussion of feeling burned out. More time at home over the past year has evolved into more meals being prepared at home, but the enthusiasm and creativity have run their course. How can we get energized for planning and making meals again without sacrificing a healthy lifestyle? My friends and colleagues brainstormed together to create a spark that many of us need.

Text says "make the most of berry season" with a picture of a dozen blackberries in the background.

Berry season is arriving quickly, and it’s what gets me the most excited for those first few farmers markets near the end of May and early June where berries are likely available. When perfectly ripe, blackberries are one of my favorites.

Text says "Can you say Worcestershire?" with an image of sliced meatloaf

Let’s face it; most of us stumble hard when trying to pronounce Worcestershire sauce, and there are several hilarious TikTok videos to prove it. Pronounced “woo-ster-sheer” sauce, this common staple ingredient has a distinct taste and is probably best known for it’s role in bloody mary mix.

Text says "sources of vitamin D" with image of sun shining in a field

Spring has arrived, and the sun is starting to stay out longer. This may not only make us happier, but it may also make us healthier. Our bodies make vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin”, when the natural light hits our skin. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and helps deposit these two minerals in bones and teeth making them stronger. Research suggests that vitamin D may not only be good for bone health, but also for other diseases, including heart disease and different types of cancers. 

Text says "Eating for a healthy gut" with a picture of a yogurt parfait with yogurt, granola, and berries

Your gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, living in your gastrointestinal tract. While you may not even know this community of living things is inside your body, it has a tremendous effect on your health. In fact, keeping this microbiome healthy can help keep you healthy. Therefore, we must feed it what it wants: prebiotics and probiotics.

Carton of brown eggs

There are so many things to think about when buying eggs, including the different grades, different colors, different ways the chicken is raised and the date on the carton. Here’s a few answers to your questions.

Bowl of cut green onions.

Your recipe calls for scallions but all you have are green onions. What do you do? You use green onions because they are literally the same thing as scallions! Two different names for the same thing can make things confusing.

Person looking at a recipe book

Have you ever started working on dinner to later realize you don’t have an ingredient? How about the time you realized you were supposed to let the meat marinate in the refrigerator overnight? These are classic examples of not fully reading the recipe well before mealtime. How does the story end? Either a not-so-yummy meal or a quick run through the drive-thru.

Overhead view of a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, a cup of coffee, and avocado on a cutting board.

Like in most subject areas, there will always be myths, particularly when it comes to food and health. Here are five nutrition myths I am happy to debunk.

1. Carbs are bad for you. Carbohydrates serve as your body’s preferred source of energy for daily tasks and it provides fuel for the brain. Healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and dairy provide carbohydrate. Choose these carbs more often than refined carbs (white breads and pastas, pastries, sweets and sodas).

A maroon bowl with refried beans

Refried beans may not have the most appealing look, but their creamy delicious taste makes up for it. They are traditionally made from pinto beans, but black beans may be prepared this way as well.

Five different scoops of different colored protein powders.

Protein powders can be spotted on the shelves of supplement stores, pharmacies, fitness centers and big box stores. Perhaps you’ve wondered if you should be bulking up on protein powder, too.

A stack of granola bars on a white plate.

This blog post was written by Nutrition & Wellness intern, Kelley Herman. 

Bowl of couscous with slices of red bell peppers and basil

Couscous (pronounced kūs kūs) has made a notable mark in North American cooking. While many believe that it is a type of grain, such as rice or barley, it is actually a type of pasta. (Hint: some grocery stores may stock couscous in the pasta section, but most will often stock it in the grain section, next to the rice).

A white bowl full of poppy seeds.

If you’ve never seen poppy seeds, you may wonder what these tiny dark specks are doing all over your bagel. Poppy seeds are often used in baked goods, giving the product a slight nutty, sweet/spicy taste, a crunchy texture, and a unique decoration.

Casserole and green beans on a white plate

This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Emily Kearney. 

Fiesta casserole is a quick and easy weeknight meal that is ready in 30 minutes. It can be made in one pot or a skillet, so the cleanup is minimal. Fiesta casserole makes for a healthy and comforting winter meal that will appeal to the entire family.

Stack of pancakes with blueberries and raspberries

When “flapjacks” somehow came into our family dinner conversation, I asked my six-year-old son if he knew what they were. He promptly said, “Yeah, it’s square, and it’s sweet.” Confused, I went straight to Google, and lo and behold, pictures of square oat bars popped up. While it’s true that in the states, flapjacks mean pancakes, in the U.K. they mean a chewy granola bar made with oats, golden syrup, brown sugar, and butter. I may have been schooled by a six-year-old, but I certainly won’t tell him that!

Peanut butter in a glass jar with a spoon full of peanut butter on top.

This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Emily Kearney. 

Mashed sweet potatoes in a bowl

Squish it. Smash it. Smoosh it. Our very first taste of solid food most likely came in a mashed or pureed form. However, as we have aged into adults, we must not forget that we can still enjoy our inner-baby’s love of mush. Here are four mashed foods that shouldn’t be stopped when the high chair gets put away.

Grapes, tomato, lettuce, bread, cheese, meat, and red pepper.

Years of scientific research tells us that there is a connection between food and health. Evidence shows that a healthy diet as part of an active lifestyle can reduce the risk of chronic disease. However, with nutritional advice constantly circulating the internet, how do we know what is sound advice based on scientific research? Since 1980, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has served as the overarching tool for health professionals to help guide the eating habits of individuals and families. Published every five years, the U.S.

One sliced apple and two whole apples beside a pitcher of glass pitcher of apple cider vinegar

If you type in “apple cider vinegar” into any search engine, thousands of results touting its alleged health benefits will pop up. There are claims that it promotes weight loss, improves digestion, aids in heartburn, improves heart health, lowers blood sugar levels, and much, much more. However, while there may be some evidence to support these health claims, the research is simply limited and not enough to warrant a dosing recommendation.  

Fish tacos next to limes and a bowl of guacamole

Most people couldn’t be happier to start this new year; a fresh start and a step away from a year that dared to isolate and defy our self-contentment. The most common New Years’ resolutions include exercising, eating healthy and losing weight, and after such a challenging year, likely even more people are looking for ways to shed those quarantine pounds. However, is the diet approach your key to a healthier body and feeling of self-worth?