February is National Snack Food Month!

There are a variety of foods to choose from when eating healthy snacks.

February is National Snack Food Month. Congrats Snack Food – you get a month all to yourself! The idea for National Snack Month was developed in 1989 as a combined effort between the Snack Food Association and the National Potato Promotion Board. Even though February is National Snack Food Month, that doesn’t give us the excuse to put anything we want in our grocery cart. Believe it or not there are HEALTHY snacks. Recently, manufacturers have produced lower calorie, lower fat and/or lower sodium snacks. Sugar is being reduced, as well, and nutrients are being added.

I agree it’s sometimes difficult to find healthy, tasty snacks. Shoppers may have to look high and low on the shelves and read the back of a product’s label to find out it is indeed ‘healthy.’ Fresh fruit and vegetables are always a great start. Fruit and vegetables can often be paired with other nutrient dense foods to add flavor. For example, apple slices are great with cheese, and celery is tasty filled with peanut butter or reduced fat cream cheese.

Great news! There are benefits to snacking, so no need to feel regretful about snacking. Healthy snacks are beneficial! Here’s how:

Binge control. If eating a piece of fruit or raw vegetables keeps you from taking second or third helpings at your next meal, you may actually consume fewer total calories for the day.

Extra energy and nutrients. Traditional, made-at-home meals often lose out to busy schedules. A grab-and-go snack can be the difference between some nourishment and none at all.

Control Hunger Pangs and Insulin Levels. Snacking helps you keep your hunger levels to a minimum and avoid feeling deprived.

Some other ideas for healthy snacks are:
• Air popped popcorn
• Lowfat or nonfat cottage cheese
• Frozen grapes
• Hard boiled egg
• Handful of walnuts
• Lowfat yogurt – or try the Greek yogurt too
• Tuna with 6 whole grain crackers
• A glass of lowfat or nonfat milk

With proper portions and healthy food choices, snacking can enhance, rather than hurt your diet. Think of a snack as a “mini meal” that will help you have a healthy diet, rather than as an opportunity to consume treats. Healthy snack foods are a great tool for permanent weight loss!

Food Fun!

Make fun food!

Can healthy food be fun? Of course it can! As a parent, I am sure you are concerned about making sure your kids get enough calcium and other vitamins and minerals that are found in dairy foods. It might be difficult if you have finicky eaters, so you may need to think of some creative ways to get them to eat and drink the three daily servings of dairy they need. Here are some creative ideas:

Add some excitement to regular milk. Add a touch of flavoring–strawberry or chocolate syrups are a couple of ideas. (These don’t add a significant amount of sugar or calories.)  Even try adding a garnish to the glass like a strawberry on the rim to make it more interesting. You can add some excitement to cereal by adding chocolate or strawberry milk to it for a change of pace as well. Graham crackers or a cookie served with a glass of milk is also a favorite sweet treat.

More cheese please!

Cheese is a great source of calcium and makes food taste great. Put some cheddar in an omelet or on a sandwich. Some other “cheesy” ideas are:

  • Create mini-pizzas by topping whole-wheat English muffins or bagels with pizza sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese, and toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, or chunks of grilled chicken.  Kids love to have their hand at being a chef, so let them make their pizza with the toppings you provide them.
  • Cut cheese into fun little shapes by using cooking cutters. You can serve it by itself or with whole-grain crackers.  Do the same with a grilled cheese sandwiches by cutting it into a heart or other fun shape.
  • Top vegetables (usually ones that your kids turn their nose up at) with melted low-fat cheese or serve up raw veggies with cream cheese as a snack
  • Use whole-grain tortillas to make wraps. Fill them with eggs and cheese for breakfast; turkey, cheese, choice of vegetables for lunch; and beans, salsa, taco sauce, and cheese for dinner.

Put a cherry on top – or any other fruit!

Serve cottage cheese with fresh fruit or applesauce or try frozen yogurt topped with fruit.  Create parfaits with layers of plain yogurt, fruit, and whole-grain cereal.  

Other ways to zest up of your food. You may not even have to do anything special to the food you are serving to make it exciting. Change how you serve it. Use a colorful or oddly shaped dish. Make fun names for everyday foods. For example, a treat for Halloween could be “Frankenstein’s Fruit Parfait” or “Witches Stew.” 

 Remember that kids love to make their food and have choices in what they eat.

Celebrate National Blueberry Month

I am quite excited I get to write the blog on National Blueberry Month because it is truly one of my favorite foods! July was proclaimed National Blueberry Month by the United States Department of Agriculture on May 8th, 1999. Blueberries are grown in 35 states in the US, and the United States produces over 90% of all of the blueberries in the world. They have been used in soups, stews and more, for centuries.

 Here is a little blueberry trivia:

  • It is the most popular muffin in the U.S.
  • The blueberry is the official state fruit of New Jersey.
  • August is National Blueberry Month in Canada.

 I make certain that I always have them on hand. They are delicious in yogurt, cottage cheese, cereal, ice cream or by themselves. Here are some other fun ways to include blueberries in your diet:

  •  Put a blueberry smile on your pancakes.
  • See how many blueberries you can fit on top of one cupcake.
  • Add blueberries to your peanut butter sandwich and call it a PB&B.
  • In a glass, layer blueberries, yogurt and crushed cereal or granola — Grab a spoon and dig in!
  • Make a sheet cake with vanilla frosting, and alternate a row of blueberries and a row of strawberries for a festive summer treat

    A blueberry smoothie is a refreshing, tasty way to get calicium and antioxidants into your diet.

Blues Buster Smoothie

  • 1 (6-ounce) container low-fat blueberry yogurt
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup frozen sliced peaches
  • 5-6 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients with ice (amount of ice will vary depending on desired consistency). Pour into a glass and serve chilled.

 Blueberries are considered a “superfood” because of the many healthy nutrients they contain. Did you know that eating blueberries could also be one of the keys to living to a ripe old age? Well, if you take a look at the research, blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which foods reduce your chance of getting cancer and heart disease. Out of 40 different fruits, juices and vegetables, the blueberry comes in with the highest antioxidant level according to the North American Blueberry Council.  Blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, and in one serving there is almost 25% of your daily requirement for vitamin C.  They are also a great source of dietary fiber and manganese. With Just 80 calories per cup – it’s a win – win for your whole body.

Today is National Chip and Dip Day!

To celebrate here are three quick and easy recipes! Let us know which one is your favorite!  

Baked Spinach Artichoke Yogurt Dip 

Makes 8 Servings
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 20 min

Ingredients

  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 (8-ounce) container low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim, low-moisture Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red pepper

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Healthy Valentine’s Day Tips

Oh yes, it’s that time of year again when we are reminded to do something sweet for the one we love OR we are reminded that we are single. (Some call it Single Awareness Day!) Either way, you don’t want to consume tons of calories only to feel regret later. I have some ideas to help you have a great time and to make sure you don’t go up a pant size during Cupid Day!

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