When packing a lunch for school, work or an outing, you may think about nutrition, so you pack an apple and baby carrots. You may also think about food safety, so you throw in an ice pack or two. But do you ever think about packing a waste-free lunch? Each person creates an average of 4.5 pounds of garbage per day, which negatively impacts our environment. Nonbiodegradable plastic packaging pollutes our oceans and affects wildlife, and trash dumped in landfills releases powerful methane gas, linked to climate change.
It’s the season for many citrus fruits, including grapefruit, which originated in the U.S. The grapefruit is a cross between the sweet orange and the pummelo and can have a red, pink or white flesh. Texas grows mainly all red grapefruit varieties, such as Ruby Red and Rio Red, that have become so popular due to their sweetness.
It’s not always easy to snack on healthy foods during the holiday season. There’s generally an abundance of homemade cookies and candies to tempt our taste buds. But being more in tune with our body can help us make smart snacking decisions.
Do you have visions of sugar plums dancing in your head this holiday season? If you have no idea what this classic poem is referring to, don’t feel bad; I don’t either. Some history buffs will say that it referred to anything sweet and round in the 16th century, not just plums. Regardless of this Christmas mystery, plums truly can be a sweet treat.
By now, you’ve likely heard of the somewhat peculiar fruit, the pomegranate. It’s beautiful red color, round shape and distinctive crown make an attractive display in the grocery store. Pomegranates are only in season during the early winter months, which means you’d better grab them now before they disappear!
This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Kristi Brougher.
Have you ever heard the saying, “you are what you eat”? Well, this can be true. What you eat can play a role in the health of your body. Now more than ever, we are all looking for ways to improve our health and boost our immune systems. Fortunately, certain foods can help to achieve this goal.
You may remember learning about the Maillard reaction in science class at school. You probably didn’t know it then, but the Maillard reaction is something you see or use every day. It’s what makes food so delicious, turning bread into toast, giving broccoli a sweeter flavor when roasted, producing grill marks on a steak, or even roasting coffee.
It’s all the rage right now. Charcuterie (pronounced shar-koo-tuh-ree) boards are the latest conversational piece at the holiday party. In the simplest terms, it’s a tray loaded with all sorts of finger foods, commonly eaten as an appetizer. Think cured meats, cheeses, crackers, nuts, veggies, fruits, pickled items, sauces, and spreads. The term “charcuterie” refers to the culinary art of preparing cured meats, meat that is ready to be eaten. As such, charcuterie boards most often contain meats like salami, prosciutto, summer sausage, ham, or cured chorizo.
At the first hint of cooler weather, there will be those (me included) running to the kitchen to make a pot of chili. It can be made a thousand different ways, each person claiming they have the secret ingredient that makes their chili win the beloved chili cookoff. There’s no right or wrong way to make chili, but there are a few things you can do to make it healthier.
When I was growing up, we had an old black walnut tree next to our driveway that would drop walnuts causing me to trip over them while chasing my brother. I loathed this tree, especially when it was my turn to mow the grass, as I had to first rake the walnuts, wasting more of my precious time. Little did I know that we could have used these annoying nuts for delicious food. However, they’re a hard nut to crack.
Locally grown foods aren’t shipped thousands of miles, which reduces the carbon footprint, supports our local growers, and offers tastier, more nutritious food. When food doesn’t have to travel far, it can be picked ripe, and eaten soon after harvest, retaining more nutrients and flavor than food picked unripe and stored for a longer period.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
This blog post was written by Nutrition & Wellness intern, Kelley Herman.
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.
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.
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.
This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Kayla Kaspari.
Cauliflower is no longer just a side dish; it’s often the star of the meal. This cruciferous vegetable is like the underdog that has recently been discovered for it’s enormous talent. What’s it’s talent? Versatility.
The school year certainly looks very different this year. While some children are eating lunches at school, many others are eating and learning from home. Suddenly parents or caregivers find themselves searching for quick, easy meals to fuel their children for an afternoon of learning.
Starfruit may not be the most well-known fruit, but I bet you can figure out what it looks like. Shaped like a star when sliced, it’s also called carambola and is native to Southeast Asia. Carambola trees produce yellow to lime green fruit with a waxy rind on the outside and a juicy pulp on the inside.
Every kitchen is sure to have a knife or set of knives. But let’s face it; these razor-sharp tools can be intimidating. How comfortable are you at using a knife, caring for your knife, and knowing which knife to use?
Which condiment do you grab? Sriracha, classic chili sauce or maybe a sweet red chili sauce? These are all examples of different kinds of chili sauce, some of which are excellent for dipping our favorite finger foods. Chili sauce is a blend of puréed or chopped chili peppers, vinegar, sugar and salt. Each type has their own unique taste that compliments certain foods.
While you may be pumping iron at your gym, your body is pumping iron every day. Most of the iron that our bodies absorb is used to make hemoglobin, a part of red blood cells that transport oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body. Since our bodies cannot make this essential nutrient, we need to make sure that we are eating foods high in iron to avoid iron deficiency anemia.
This blog post is written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Jesi Thome.
Have you ever wondered why people say water is so important? We grow up hearing “make sure to drink plenty of water” for everything! If it’s hot outside, drink water. If it’s cold outside, drink water. If you’re sick, better drink water. If you wake up, drink! But why water?
Many people are itching to get out of their homes and enjoy the beautiful weather, which is why there's been an increased interest in forest bathing. Don't worry, this does not involve actual bathing!
Quite simply, forest bathing is being in nature while having a conscious connection to the natural environment. Whether it’s a hike, swim, or run to strengthen the physical body or the mind, it’s always important to be prepared with meals, snacks, and drinks to fuel your adventure.
Other than breastmilk, I can honestly say I have never stored milk in the freezer…until now. This is the time to put that freezer to good use. Freezing is one of the easiest ways to store food for longer periods of time. Before you go to the store, check your freezer(s) to make sure you have the space. If you don’t already have a freezer thermometer, add it to the grocery list, and maintain the freezer temperature at 0°F or below.
As my household has been stocking up on canned foods like never before, I had to laugh when my husband brought home a can of fruit cocktail. It’s been years since I had fruit cocktail, and it immediately made me think of my dad and his fruit cocktail cookies that he used to make. While I would always be disappointed that the cookies weren’t chocolate chip, I still ate them!
Some of you may have noticed a new milk on the market, known as “A2 milk.” This is not one of those alternative milks, such as almond, rice, or soy, but rather it is an alternative type of cow’s milk. The claim is that A2 milk is “easier on digestion.” A2 milk supporters recommend it for those who think they are lactose intolerant. They believe that for some people, it may not be the lactose in the milk that is giving them gastrointestinal distress, but rather a type of protein called A1 beta casein found in regular and lactose-free milk.
As the weather is growing warmer and more and more people are itching to get out of the house, picnic meals may be the answer to those craving a change in scenery. Whether it’s a picnic in your backyard or at an open park, keep both food safety and fun in mind when planning.
An estimated 30-50 million American adults experience lactose intolerance, many of which completely avoid all dairy products. However, is abstinence from dairy products necessary?
This blog post is written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Alyssa Laing.
This blog post is written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Alyssa Laing.
It looks like a burger. It tastes like a burger. It even “bleeds” like a burger. However, this burger is not made of meat. Plant-based burgers and meat alternatives are the trendy new food that have hit the market in response to consumer’s eco-friendly demands.
Paprika is the dash of red color that usually tops deviled eggs. It’s a spice that some cooks would consider more of a garnish than a powerful flavoring agent. However, paprika comes in three different types, each with its own tasty purpose.
Puff pastry and phyllo (or filo) dough produce amazing appetizers, breakfast pastries, and decadent desserts. While you can get out your French rolling pin and make them yourself, you can also settle for the convenience of grabbing a package from the frozen food aisle. Both doughs are flaky and delicious, but they shouldn’t be used interchangeably.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, you may find yourself reflecting on relationships. Positive relationships, whether with a partner, child, parent or friend, can be strengthened by doing activities together. This holiday, consider cooking a meal with your loved one, which can be just as nourishing for the relationship as it is for the body.
Brown sugar can give a rich caramel flavor to sweeten so many foods. As it sits in your pantry next to the canister of white granulated sugar, you may have wondered, “What makes brown sugar brown?”
While a persimmon will probably never be as popular as an apple in the U.S., this lesser known fruit packs a punch of sweet flavor. If you’ve ever seen a persimmon, you may have mistaken it for an unripe tomato, as they look and feel somewhat similar. A ripe persimmon is dense with waxy skin and jelly-like flesh.
If you enjoy Asian cuisine, you likely are a fan of soy sauce. This condiment originated in China over 2,000 years ago and is a staple ingredient in many Asian countries. This salty liquid is made from fermented soybeans, roasted wheat, and of course, lots of salt.
Elderberries have been used in folk medicine for centuries as a remedy for influenza and colds, but only recently have they become popular in the United States. The common elderberry (Sambucus var. canadensis) is a beautiful native shrub with white flowers and dark purple berries. It can be planted as a tall hedge in a beautifully decorated lawn, but can also be found growing wild in Illinois along roadsides. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is native to Europe and is generally the berry used in elderberry products found on store shelves.
The holidays come with much anticipation and excitement, as well as a little dread. The dozens of holiday cookies, the variations of fabulous fudge, and the finest candies around, are sure to excite the taste buds. But when these goodies have you surrounded each day from November to January, the dread of the holiday pounds weighs you down. Here are some holiday tips to help you gain control.
Sour cream has so many uses that it’s often a refrigerator staple from January to December. It adds richness and acidity to both savory and sweet dishes. It’s similar to it’s substitutes, yogurt or crème fraiche, yet remains a distinctive ingredient.
Turning fresh fall veggies into fabulous favorites can happen with roasting, a simple cooking technique. Roasting allows vegetables or other foods to develop a crispy crust on the outside while creating a subtle sweetness. This is due to the magic of caramelization.
As many people are realizing the health benefits of plant-based diets, plant-rich proteins are becoming more popular. While tofu is more widely known as a meat substitute, tempeh is not far behind. Tempeh, like tofu, is made from soybeans. The soybeans are cooked, fermented and then formed into a firm block that resembles a nougat. While tempeh may not sound or look very appetizing, fans of this tofu cousin enjoy it for its versatility and nutrient density.
Pumpkin season is in full swing, and while great for decorating and carving, pumpkins are also considered a superfood, offering many health benefits. In fact, the seeds, fruit and greens have each been known to be used in herbal medicines. The pumpkin flesh is a valuable source of both vitamin A and fiber, which will help to boost immunity, support weight loss and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer and arthritis. Just one-half cup of canned pumpkin provides 200% of daily vitamin A needs.
Along with the Keto and Whole 30 diets, the Paleo diet is currently trending in popularity. Also called the “caveman” or “stone-age” diet, it’s based on the idea that today’s farming practices are not what they were when our ancestors ate 10,000 years ago. Paleo diet supporters believe in the hypothesis that our bodies have not been able to adapt to a modern diet, and thus is a contributing factor to the prevalence of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. However, there is no scientific evidence supporting these claims.
One of the most popular foods in the fall is named for a different season: winter squash, particularly acorn squash. While still a popular pick in the winter, acorn squash in Illinois is generally harvested in late summer to early November. It’s the first fall food I go for after decorating my house with pumpkins and fall décor.
I recently ordered some pumpkin seeds online, but when I opened up the package, I realized that they were not the pumpkin seeds I had in mind. I was expecting to see cream-colored, oval-shaped seeds, like the ones you’d dig out of a jack-o-lantern, but instead I received greenish, small seeds without a cream-colored hull. They resembled a sunflower seed only a tad bigger. It dawned on me that I had actually ordered pepitas.
Fresh ginger is one of the most common spices used in the world. It’s believed that Indians and Chinese were the first to produce ginger root where it was primarily used to treat many ailments. While not really a root, ginger is in the same family as turmeric, both of which are grown for their rhizomes, an underground stem that sends out roots or shoots. The rhizome is the part you eat.
Give your dish, drink or dessert a squeeze of fresh lime for an added sense of freshness and a pop of tartness. Limes grow on trees in warm climates. Similar to lemons, limes are a citrus fruit with a low pH; this means limes are very acidic, making them an influential cooking ingredient.
During spring, asparagus is everywhere!
Pesto isn’t just for the fine dining of the rich and famous. Rather, it can be a part of the regular ol' American family dinner.
While it may seem like a fancy and unnecessary addition to an otherwise tasty meal, its bold taste can elevate a food to a whole new level. Take a simple grilled chicken, for example: even when seasoned with a dry rub, it is just ordinary chicken. But when pesto is spread on top, it creates a completely different dish.
How to make pesto
The best part of pesto is its simplicity. Only four ingredients are needed:
Eggplants are more than a funny name with an odd shape. They are versatile, nutritious and quite tasty. And lucky for us, the eggplant season generally lasts until the end of October.
There are different varieties of eggplant, some of which are white rather than the more common purple color, and some of which are round or oval rather than elongated. Like many vegetables, eggplant is low in calories and has virtually zero fat, cholesterol and sodium. Plus, it’s abundant in antioxidants and rich in dietary fiber.