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Beat your Budget with a Garden

NCES GardenSpring is here! Well, if you’re here with us in the Midwest, it doesn’t feel like it though. Regardless, April is Garden Month and we’re going to celebrate rain or shine… or snow, or sleet, or hail! Planting a garden is one of the best things you can do for your health, and your budget. I can’t tell you how often I hear the complaint “I can’t afford to eat healthy”. Although I think there are many options for making eating healthy affordable, growing your own vegetable garden is one of the best solutions to eating healthy on a budget.

Did you know that you can go to Amazon and order a pack of tomato seeds for around $2? Depending on where you get your seeds, the quality and how many you get, the price will vary. But, either way, $2 for an entire growing season of tomatoes is pretty affordable. Plus, if you grow them without the use of any pesticides, your tomatoes will be completely organic. You would pay a premium for that at the store!

Other vegetables that are great for growing in your garden at home include lettuce, onions, radishes, peppers and green beans. With some of these, such as lettuce or onions, they will only produce the consumable vegetable once. But, if you plant them early enough in the season, you can often replant after your first batch and have time to grow a second batch before the end of the growing season.

It’s easy to see why April is Garden Month. This is the best time to get your vegetable garden planted in order to see great results throughout the summer! Just remember, vegetable gardens need water. Be sure to cultivate your garden to keep it weed free and fully hydrated throughout the hot summer months.

By the way, if you’re wondering where we come up with all of our nutrition themes for the blog, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food, Nutrition & Health department creates this calendar each month. It’s a great free resource that you can use to create themes for the material you use with your clients. You can find the calendar at http://food.unl.edu/web/fnh/april

We’ve also created a printable desktop calendar for May using the UNL calendar. Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s free. Go check it out today! http://www.ncescatalog.com/May-2013-Foodie-Calendar_p_1230.html

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Top 5 Summer Foods to Enjoy Before their Gone

As we all know, summer is here! We’ve all been feeling the relentless heat that the summer of 2012 has thrown our way! If nothing else, you can look through our past few blog posts and hear us rant and rave about the heat this summer! So today, we’re turning it around… we’re taking lemons and making lemonade! Today, we want to share with you our top summer foods to enjoy before their gone! Before we know it, winter will be here and all the amazing fresh fruits & veggies that we enjoy all summer will be nothing but a memory, or a hard, flavorless grocery store imitation! So, enjoy these top picks while you still can!

  1. Peaches – Has anybody ever told you, “You’re a Peach!”? If so, you should be flattered! Peaches are sweet, flavorful and unique to their core. Enjoy one today because they are at the peak of their season right now!
  2. Tomatoes – Umm… BLT! Need we say more! Although great by themselves, adding a freshly picked tomato to your favorite sandwich or salad is sure to make your mouth happy!
  3. Blueberries – Talk about the perfect snack! Once you pop… the fun won’t stop! And, with these little guys, the fun doesn’t have to stop! You can pop as many as you want without counting fat or calories.
  4. Cherries – And we’re not talking maraschino here folks! When was the last time you bit in to a fresh, unprocessed, Bing cherry? They are in season now and give those jarred guys a run for their money on sweetness!
  5. Cucumbers – Although probably not a vegetable that you always think to turn to, cucumbers are a great addition to many recipes. Sliced or diced, a fresh cucumber can be added to any summer salad for a splash of unique flavor!

Well, that’s it! Our list of top summer foods! What’s on your list? We’re always up for trying new ideas, foods and recipes! Share your favorite summer foods with us right here on the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter! If it’s reasonable, we promise we’ll try it! We hope you enjoy these fresh, flavorful and fun foods! Come back and let us know what you think!

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Top 3 Summer Super Foods

Were you able to stay out of the hospital this 4th of July? For many, this hot summer holiday is an excuse to act crazy and forget all the rules! Unfortunately, our bodies are still paying attention to all the rules! Not only are the fireworks themselves dangerous, but the heat that always accompanies the 4th of July can pose its own health hazards if we don’t pay attention to our bodies signals and take necessary precautions to keep our bodies healthy. This year, it’s no different! In fact, many portions of the country are facing record-breaking heat this summer.

We have spent some time this morning discussing our 4th of July party menus and chosen the top 3 foods that we were glad we included on the menu! As we all know, there is a major heat wave sweeping the entire U.S. So, it’s extremely important this year to pay attention to the food and drinks that we’re consuming! Here’s a list of our Top 3 super foods to include on your summer party menu.

  1. Water is the #1 super food on our list because your body needs it! Did you know that our bodies are made up of about 60% water?  This means that when you start to get dehydrated, over half of your body begins to go in to shock… It can’t function correctly without this water. So, while you’re out enjoying your summer activities, remember to drink plenty of water! The daily recommendation is 64 oz. But, if you’re going to be out in this heat, our dietitian recommends you drink 8 oz. of water for every 30 minutes you spend outside. Drink up!

Tip: Are you struggling to drink all the water that is recommended? Try adding some light flavor, in the form of fresh fruit, to your water. The light, sweet flavor should help you enjoy your water!

  1. Summer is here and the produce is fresh! So, take advantage of it and be sure to set out plenty of green, leafy vegetables! These vegetables help provide the vitamins and nutrients that help our bodies stay strong. Plus, they are heavily composed of water. So, they won’t dehydrate our bodies by eating them.

Tip: Looking for a fun way to serve leafy greens? Serve a spinach salad with a fresh sliced apple and dried cranberries. Top it with a sweet, fruity dressing like strawberry vinaigrette… your guests will be singing your praises for weeks!

 

  1. As we’ve alluded to in the previous two tips, fresh berries are an extremely popular superfood this time of year. Fresh fruits, like blueberries and blackberries, make great snacks and are a much better choice than chips or candy. They are great for adding flavor to recipes as well. Plus, making desserts using fresh fruits usually eliminates any need for added sugar. Just remember, the possibilities are endless when it comes to adding fruit to any part of your menu.

Tip: Most berries are currently in season, so there is no better time to start building them in to your menu. Try visiting your local farmers market for the freshest, most flavorful berries.

What are your summer super foods? As always, we love to hear from you, our readers! So, leave your comments here on the blog or visit us on Facebook or Twitter! We look forward to hearing from you!

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Fighting Cancer with Fitness

The Major Role Fitness Plays in Fighting Cancer

Chances are that a friend or loved one will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Although experts in the medical community still have a lot to learn about the different forms of cancer, there have been some very intriguing findings involving the relationship between cancer and fitness. In general, increased fitness levels seem to have a positive impact on people in all stages of cancer treatment. Whether someone is a healthy adult or a cancer survivor, including fitness into daily life can offer many benefits.
One of the most recognized positive outcomes for people who routinely exercise is a lowered body mass index. Getting frequent exercise helps to reduce body fat and increases lean muscle mass for those who work out.  Medical experts have recognized a correlation between lowered body mass index and the prevalence of cancer. Based on this scientific data, people of all ages should incorporate fitness into daily routines to help prevent a cancer diagnosis. Staying in shape can also help to lower inflammation throughout the body and lower the occurrence of other major illnesses.
Even with proper diet and exercise, a cancer diagnosis can sometimes happen without warning. For most, getting this news from the doctor is a stressful experience that is difficult to deal with. However, this is the time when staying fit can be the most advantageous. Fitness and medical experts agree that regular exercise helps to lower stress hormones in the body. After an initial cancer diagnosis, patients should stay motivated to stick with exercise programs in order to maintain a positive outlook. Staying active will help the body deal with the shock of this information.
After a cancer patient has agreed upon on a treatment method with a doctor, some may undergo depression and withdrawal. It can be easy to get discouraged when undergoing strong chemotherapy treatments for mesothelioma and other cancers. Patients should confer with their oncologist about the type of exercise that would be right for them. Moderate walking and resistance training can increase energy levels and positively affect mood. Additionally, there are many side effects associated with these aggressive treatments that can leave patients with the feeling that they have lost control over their bodies. Simple, short-term exercise goals can help patients to regain confidence with their abilities and help them to overcome a cancer diagnosis.
Even patients in remission from cancer can benefit from routine exercise.  Several studies have shown that exercise helps to prevent the cancer from recurring. One specific study of breast cancer survivors found that women who walked three to five hours a week saw a 50% reduction in mortality. Getting frequent exercise after going into remission offers survivors the chance to prevent the disease from coming back. In addition, those who maintain this level of exercise after going into remission are able to regain a lot of the strength that may have been lost during the treatment process.
Although staying active and maintaining a proper body weight is not a definitive cure for cancer, there is enough evidence to suggest that patients greatly benefit from regular participation in cardiovascular and strength training. Further, taking a simple walk around the block or picking up lightweights on occasion offers benefits for anyone desiring to prevent major medical issues. Cancer doesn’t have to be fought lying down. Oncologists can work with cancer patients to help them stay in shape during the long and arduous fight against the disease.

Author: David Haas

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Bye, Bye Summer… Hello Fall!

Okay, it’s with mixed emotions that we would like to point out that summer is almost over. We just celebrated Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer. Hopefully you were able to celebrate poolside with friends and family close by! Our grill was full of summer favorites like hamburgers, grilled chicken and asparagus accompanied by fresh tomatoes and mozzarella.  Now, though, it is time to start looking ahead to fall and the wonderful fruits and vegetables that are soon to be fresh and in-season!

The scents of fall are often centered around pumpkins and flavorful spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s no wonder because fall is notorious for its various types of squash. These vegetables thrive during this time of year. So, take advantage of it. Winter squash, as this variety is commonly known, are a great source of antioxidants, , as well as Vitamins A & C and dietary fiber which is great for our digestive systems.

Another great use for many winter squashes  are their seeds. Baking the seeds with your choice of flavoring makes a great, low-fat snack. Simply baking pumpkin seeds with a light amount of salt provides an inexpensive snack that you can enjoy on-the-go, or send to school with the kids!

Peaches are a great fruit that thrive in the fall. These fruits are freshest, juiciest and just plain yummiest during this time of year. There are many ways to enjoy a peach. However, we still contend that slicing up a fresh peach and savoring the flavor as you bite in to each slice is the best way to enjoy this fruit! You can also whip up some of the traditional peach recipes including peach cobblers and pies, as well as fresh peach preserves. However, it’s always fun to think outside the box. Sweeten up your salad a bit too! Try making your own poppy seed dressing and tossing it with fresh lettuce and diced peaches. This recipe is sure to be a decadent treat for your palette.

So, as disappointed as we are that summer is coming to an end, this bittersweet moment opens up the door for a new season; fall! This fall, take some time to enjoy all the fruits and vegetables the season has to offer! You may be surprised at how much you’ll love what you find! Plus, always remember, according to the new USDA guidelines and MyPlate, half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. So, why not fill it with fresh, fun seasonal fruits and veggies!

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A Celebratory Meal!

May is a usually a busy month for everyone. But, it is especially busy when it comes to celebrating food! From asparagus to hamburgers and BBQ to strawberries, May is the time to use all of these foods because they are in season, fresh and just fun to make. To get everyone celebrating, we’ve put together a whole meal worth of recipes incorporating all of the foods celebrated during the month of May.

Appetizer: (Salsa Month)

Get some multi-grain tortilla chips and pair them with this delicious ‘Salsa Fresca’.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/3 Onion (diced)
  • Cilantro (chopped)
  • 3 Garlic bulbs
  • 1 Lime (juiced)
  • Salt (to taste)

It’s so simple! Mix all your ingredients in a bowl and Joila, you have a fresh bowl of salsa.

Main Dish: (BBQ, Beef and Hamburger Month)

This grilled summer favorite will be simple and also satisfy your BBQ craving!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Lean Hamburger
  • 1/3 Onion (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce

Mix all of your ingredients together. Patty the burgers and grill. Top these delicious burgers with fresh lettuce, tomato, pickles and condiments. You’re sure to please the whole family!

Side Dish: (Asparagus Month)

Grilled Asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Fresh Asparagus
  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

After you flavor the asparagus with the oil, salt and pepper, grill it. Be sure to turn it so that all sides cook evenly.

Salad: (Salad and Egg Month)

This simple cobb salad is a throwback to the salads you had growing up. Mix it up and enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Bacon (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 8 oz. Romaine Lettuce (about 12 cups packed)
  • 4 cups Roast Chicken (skinned, boned, diced)
  • 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 cup Blue Cheese (crumbled)
  • 2 Ripe Avocados (halved, peeled, pitted, diced)
  • 4 Hard-Boiled Eggs (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 cups Green Onions (chopped)

Make a base with your romaine lettuce. Then, lay all the other toppings across the top for a great presentation. This salad is great with a light ranch or honey mustard. But, can also be enjoyed with any dressing of your choice.

Dessert: (Strawberry Month)

Nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than a bowl of fresh strawberries… unless of course you add Angel Food Cake and Whipped Topping to the mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Angel Food Cake (Prepared or Homemade)
  • 3 cups Fresh Strawberries (cleaned and sliced)
  • 2 cups Fat Free Whipped Topping

In a deep bowl, layer your ingredients. 1st, angel food cake. Then, whipped topping. Place strawberries on top of the whipped topping. Then repeat this layering process as many times as your bowl will allow.

We hope that your entire family will enjoy sharing this early summer meal, celebrating the many flavors of May!

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Happy Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day

Have you ever celebrated “Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day”? Well, we haven’t! So, we are pretty excited to be celebrating, for the first time, with you today! Grilled Cheese sandwiches are one of the most versatile foods around. So, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate with you than by giving a few examples of ways to ‘spice up’ your grilled cheese, and make it a nutritious, filling option for you and you’re family!

Many people enjoy eating their grilled cheese sandwich with a large bowl of tomato soup. However, tomato soup is high in calories. So, our first change is simple, but tasty. Simply adding your favorite veggies, like tomato slices, to your grilled cheese sandwich is a great way to add nutrients and flavor. Not only are you going to get rid of unnecessary calories by subbing soup with vegetables, they are also packed with many health-promoting vitamins. Another one of our favorite vegetable additions are red peppers and onions.

Another way to cut calories, and liven up the flavor of your grilled cheese sandwich, is to switch up the type of cheese that you use. Traditionally, grilled cheese sandwiches are made with sliced American cheese or Velveeta. These cheeses are high in calories and not as full of flavor as some other options. Next time, try switching those old, boring cheeses, for a half slice of low-fat cheddar and a half slice of low-fat Swiss. This combination will give your sandwich a great new flavor, while cutting your total calorie intake.

Are you tired of eating your grilled cheese sandwich on plain, white bread? So are we! Switching out your boring old bread for a tastier option can also be healthy. Be sure to use a whole-grain replacement. You can also use new sandwich thins. Or, to really change things up, try making yourself a grilled cheese rollup, using tortillas.

In the past, you may have though of a grilled cheese sandwich as the last option, when you didn’t feel like cooking anything else. Now, with these simple changes, you can look at a grilled cheese sandwich as a nutritious, gourmet dish that your whole family will enjoy!

How do you like to make your grilled cheese sandwich both healthy and tasty? Share your comments by posting a comment on the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter.