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 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 "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. 

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!

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?

Cutting board with avocado, tomatoes, mushrooms, and various other vegetables

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

Many cultures (Mediterranean, Latin, Asian) and diets (vegetarian) are rooted in meatless, plant-based meals. Some individuals never consume meat, while others limit meat for health or personal reasons. In the United States, we are a very meat and potato society, where meat is often thought of as essential at every meal. I personally like the idea of dedicating one day a week as a meatless day (i.e. Meatless Mondays).

Tomato basil salad on a blue plate

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

Assortment of green herbs laid out on a wooden cutting board.

One of my favorite ways to use fresh herbs is to add them to different drinks. It brings a completely new dimension to what may already be a familiar drink. It can be as simple as adding mint to your iced tea, basil to your lemonade or rosemary to your orange juice.

Various pieces of food creating a bunny face (pretzel sticks for whiskers, kiwi slices for ears) on a white plate.

Originally discovered in China, kiwifruit found it’s way to producers in New Zealand, Italy, Chile and in the United States, California. While today’s generation is growing up with kiwi available at the grocery stores all year round, many generations had never heard of this funny looking fruit. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that kiwifruit started becoming popular in the U.S.

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.

Chicken salad sandwich with lettuce and bread, set on a napkin on top of a table.

Summer is a good time to enjoy a meat salad or egg salad sandwich. A cold sandwich that differs from the standard deli meat or pb&j, is a welcomed item on the lunch menu. Of course, the classic diner favorite can be a high calorie offender, depending on the ingredients used.

Yellow weight on a barbell.

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.

Blue background, glass in the middle of picture with water being poured into it.

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?

Basil leaves on a wooden table.

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: