Tips and Recipes

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Have Your Cake and Eat It Too?

So we all know that nutrition, fitness, and all that is in between is become a nation wide hot topic.  Whether you are committed to being fit or just getting started, our health is on our minds, splashed across magazine articles, and on our conscience.  I always try to tell myself that one healthy meal won’t make you healthy, and one bad meal won’t make you unhealthy.  It is all about a lifestyle change and the choices we make.  Which brings me to my weakness; guilty pleasures.  The cakes, processed carbohydrate goodness of heavy pastas and pizza, and my kryptonite: chocolate.  Sure all of these are fine in moderation, but what if there were ways to make the most of consuming these kinds of foods that call to us?  Well with a little research there is!  There are some fantastic foods out there that can be used as substitutions for the ingredients that are frowned upon but RD’s and Nutrition Fact Labels everywhere.  One of my favorites is Greek Yogurt in place of mayo, sour cream, or really any creamy based recipe.  Greek Yogurt has high levels of protein, is low in fat, and contains important nutrients for our bodies.  Ultimately, it gives our recipes with empty calories some substantial nutritional value!  Check out this article from Time Magazine that gives some of the most popular and easy swaps we can make in the kitchen.  Each new ingredient offers up some nutritional value compared to its unhealthy counterpart!  Enjoy!greekyogurt

Healthy vs. Processed?

As Americans we have probably heard over and over that fruits and vegetables are essential for a healthy diet.  So why are the majority of us not getting an adequate amount of servings per day?  There is an overwhelming stigma surrounding these colorful food options and that is that they are expensive.  Consumers would rather spend their dollars on foods, mostly processed, that are cheaper at first glance.  The Center for Science and the Public Interest recently compared the per serving cost of produce and common processed foods and overall they found that the average per serving cost of fruit and vegetable snacks was $.34 and the average cost of unhealthier snacks was $.67!  As if that is not exciting enough to hear, fruit and vegetable options were also proven to be lower in calories, sometimes up to 260 calories less!
Hopefully this information changes some stubborn view points about the low accessibility of these necessary fruits and vegetables.  They were found to more often than not, be “nutritional bargains” and the same price, if not cheaper, per serving when compared to their boxed, high-sodium, processed counterparts. So think twice before ruling out the produce section at your local grocery store!  Keep your family healthy by serving them these delicious fruits and veggies.  Check out this article for more cost comparisons that will open your eyes to purchasing healthier options for your family and learn more about research that is being done to support fruit and vegetable purchase and consumption!

How to choose a healthy breakfast cereal

Walking down the cereal aisle can be overwhelming with all the options available and different cereals claiming to be healthy. Here are some tips for finding the best cereals for your family:

  • Look at the Nutrition Facts panel on the side of the cereal box (ignore any health claims made on the front of the box), which lists the grams of sugar contained.
  • Find the serving size. If a cereal says it has 10 grams of sugar and a serving size of 30 grams, that means the cereal is one-third sugar.

colorful cereal bowl


  • Be careful about cereals that boast it is “High in Fiber!” if they are also high in sugar. If a cereal is basically 30% sugar, it doesn’t matter much if there is some added fiber.
  • Be careful about front of the box advertisement that says “Made with whole grain,” because that can mean made with very little whole grain.
  • Instead, look at the actual ingredient list. The first and second ingredient should be whole grain, like whole grain wheat or whole grain oats. Typically, if you see rice or rice flour, it’s not as good for you.


  1. Fake fruits: The “strawberries” in cereals like Strawberry Mini-Wheats are most likely a mixture of food dyes and gelatin, and not real fruit. The “raspberries” in a lot of cereals are more likely to have more salt than raspberry powder. Look for real fruit in the ingredients list, or top your cereal with sliced fresh fruit like bananas or strawberries instead.
  2. Yogurt clusters: Yogurt sounds like it should be healthy, but yogurt coating is mostly oil and sugar and has no health benefits.
  3. “Slimming” cereals: Some cereals claim you can drop a pant size if you eat a bowl for every meal. Most cereals can’t claim to cause weight loss, and isn’t a balanced and healthy diet to only eat cereal.
  4. Low in calories: Watch out for how large the serving size is! If the serving size is ¼ cup, think about how much you fill your bowl—it’s very unlikely you’re only eating ¼ cup!

Adapted from “How to choose a healthy breakfast cereal” at CNN Health.

Easy on the go snack–dried fruit!

Dried fruits like raisins make great snacks. They are easy to carry and store well.
Make an easy trail mix with raisins, peanuts, and whole grain cereal. Store in zip bags and keep handy for on the go snacks.

snack cup with dried fruit

Ideas for grocery shopping with your kids

Taking your kids grocery shopping can be a great learning experience for them and get them excited about trying new foods. But it can also be a headache! Here are some tips on how to get your kids involved while decreasing stressful situations:

  • If you can, plan to go to the store with your child when you have plenty of time and the store is not crowded. 
  • Plan shopping trips when your child is not tired or hungry. Or bring a nutritious snack for them to eat during the shopping trip.
  • Discuss your rules before you enter a store. Remind your child to stay close to you. Also, set ground rules about what is acceptable to put in the cart. Discussing acceptable behavior before going into the store can save a lot of headache later on.
  • Give your child a job. For example, ask them to help pick out five oranges or three tomatoes. Or let them choose if you get apples or pears. Kids who help pick out fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them. Older children may like to hold onto the grocery list and cross off the items as you put them in the cart.
  • Set positive limits. When your child does something you do not want them to do, instead of reacting with a negative limit, such as “don’t throw the oranges on the floor,” tell your child what is expected in a positive way, such as “keep the oranges in the bin.”
  • Make the shopping trip a learning experience. Keep kids entertained by asking them questions and having them search for items. Teach toddlers about touch by asking how different items feel, like the skin of an apple or if the milk is warm or cold. Teach preschoolers about colors by asking them to point out items of different colors like the green peas or the cereal in the yellow box. Have school-aged children look at the labels and compare items based on nutrition and unit pricing. 

What other tips can you share about shopping with kids?

Adapted from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

child in grocery store
Girl with Asparagus at Grocery Store

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Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

North Carolina State University
Agricultural and Human Sciences Department

Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES)

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