Learn to Eat Smart
Eating smart just got a lot easier! Find a wealth of information on ways to incorporate healthy options on the Eat Smart Blog. Know what you're looking for? Try the search term box to look for specific topics that meet your needs.
Sport Drinks: An Unhealthy Choice
Lauren Wright | 01/26/2018
Many people think sports drink are a healthy replacement for water. Are they right or wrong?
Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are often marketed as healthy options, and they have grown increasingly popular with children in recent years. It�۪s not uncommon to see people reaching for sports drinks even when they�۪ve done no exercise.
So, how good or bad are sports drinks for you really?
Sports drinks are designed to replenish water, carbohydrates and sugars lost through vigorous exercise. Gatorade was first developed by scientists at the University of Florida to refuel football players who were practicing in heavy gear in the sun and humidity for hours a day. For them, sports drinks were necessary to prevent dehydration from the heat and intense exercise.
But, how many average Americans perform that kind of intense exercise on a regular basis?
Sports drinks are packed with sugar. For example, one 12oz serving of orange Gatorade contains 80 calories and 20 grams of sugar, and keep in mind the average bottle contains 2.5 servings. A single bottle of Gatorade contains 200 calories and 50 grams of sugar! The American Heart Association recommends that adult women limit their added sugar intake to 100 calories per day and adult men 150 calories per day. Downing one bottle of a sports drink will far exceed your recommended sugar for the day.
So, should you or your child be consuming sports drinks every day?
Probably not. A good rule of thumb for adults performing less than one hour of vigorous exercise should stick to rehydrating with water. As for kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend that children consume sports drinks at all.
So, the next time you're thirsty, rehydrate with water. H2O is calorie and sugar-free!
10 Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store Without Coupons
Ken Immer | 01/15/2018
Save money at the grocery checkout with these tips!
Grocery shopping can be a chore, and budgets can be tight. We have a tendency to reach for convenience foods which tend to actually cost more. These 10 tips can help you balance healthy options with a budget without having to clip coupons.
- Take advantage of your store€۪s loyalty program where you sign up to get big savings.
- Purchase items that are on sale or buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO). Many stores have a rotation of special offers on staple items such
as meats, paper products, cheese, drinks and produce. Figure out the rotation and stock up on items that freeze well or have longer shelf-lives.
- Let sale prices determine your menu if you like being spontaneous with your weekly meals, and buy only items that are on sale.
- Check out the discontinued table or rack near the cashier stations or the back of the store near the stockroom entrance.
They are often hidden, but you never know what you might find as they rotate through stock. These are the lowest prices in the store!
- Avoid buying foods that are already cut like shredded cheese or carrots). The whole versions are cheaper and do not spoil as
- Save money by not throwing away spoiled foods. Use the €€€bulk bins€۪ rather than packaged bags for items like fresh spinach,
mushrooms and salad greens. These items don€۪t store well and should only be purchased in amounts that you will use immediately.
- Reduce waste by buying frozen foods. Some frozen vegetables such as green beans, broccoli, peas and corn can be inexpensive in
bulk and stay fresh in the freezer, and they keep their nutritional quality.
- Try store brands. Generic brands are actually not so bad. Many name brands are the same exact products packed under store labels
with the same quality standards. If the packaging looks similar to your favorite brand, it€۪s a good possibility it€۪s manufactured by the national
- Consider purchasing fruits at different stages of ripeness. Avocados, tomatoes and bananas can be bought ripe and ready to eat or
not so ripe and have a day or two to be ready.
- Don't shop when you are hungry, and stick to your list!
- Take advantage of your store€۪s loyalty program where you sign up to get big savings.
4 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Healthier
Lauren Wright | 11/21/2017
Ready to enjoy a healthy and active Thanksgiving this year?
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and chances are you�۪re already planning your holiday meal or at least daydreaming about all the turkey and pie you�۪re about to eat! While this time of year is all about enjoying time with family and indulging in good food, it�۪s often tempting to over eat. We want to you to be able to enjoy this special holiday without overdoing it.
Here are four ways to help you enjoy your Thanksgiving while keeping active and healthy:
- Start your day off with exercise and work up an appetite.
Take a quick walk with your relatives or play football in the yard with the kids before you sit down for turkey. Being active as a family not only allows you to spend time together on this holiday but also allows you to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal You also end up balancing the extra calories with physical activity. Many communities have Turkey Trots on Thanksgiving morning. Check your local newspaper for listings.
- Make room for your favorite holiday treats.
Decide what your favorite Thanksgiving dishes are that you only enjoy this time of year. You should be sure to enjoy those dishes, but you can balance by cutting back on other foods you enjoy all year round. For example, my family only prepares my favorite apple-cranberry casserole on Thanksgiving, so I make sure to enjoy it while I can, but I skip the dinner rolls that I eat on a more regular basis.
- Make healthier substitutions.
Traditional Thanksgiving dishes tend to be high in fat, sugar, and sodium, but with a few tweaks, it�۪s easy to lighten up your favorite recipes. Pick a low-fat stock or gravy, and choose a low sodium stuffing. Swap plain yogurt in creamy dishes for sour cream. Sometimes in fruit pie or crumble fillings, you can reduce the amount of sugar slightly without greatly altering the flavor. And choose whole grains when possible! There are lots of light recipe ideas online these days.
- Rethink your drink.
Alcohol is often enjoyed with the Thanksgiving meal, but it�۪s easy to consume a lot of empty calories by drinking too much. Watch how much you drink or try mixing sparkling water with wine to make a lower calorie spritzer.
- Start your day off with exercise and work up an appetite.
3 Ways to Avoid Going Overboard at Thanksgiving
Coleman Tanner | 11/21/2017
Thanksgiving is a day to indulge... mindfully!
In just a few days, you'll face a challenge: cakes, pies, and creamy casseroles galore. It can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the holiday season, especially with so many tempting foods at our fingertips.
We have good news: Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a 24-hour smorgasbord. It is entirely possible to indulge on your favorite Thanksgiving treats without going overboard. Consider these tips to help you stick to a plan on Turkey Day.
- Don't indulge all day long. This may seem like a no-brainer, but people often disregard nutrition for the entire day on Thanksgiving. They either skip breakfast altogether and munch on appetizers all day long or enjoy a large, calorie-dense breakfast on top of what they'll be eating for dinner that evening. Instead, enjoy a hearty, healthy breakfast like scrambled eggs with some fruit and whole grain toast to tide you over until the big meal.
- Stay active. Fun runs are becoming increasingly popular on Thanksgiving Day! Round up the whole family and register for your local road race to get your hearts pumping. Races aren't your thing? That's okay! Walking a 5k is still a great way to get your blood pumping and spend time with your family during the holidays. Or, to make things even easier, pick teams and host a family football game in the yard while the turkey is cooking. There's nothing like a little friendly competition, right?
- Be mindful. If you constantly obsess over what you're eating, you won't enjoy your holiday to the fullest. Instead, make small changes to ensure that you're doing what's best for your mind and body. Try swapping out the creamy casseroles (like green bean) with fresh vegetables, go easy on the gravy, and eat the healthy foods on your plate before devouring the heavy, starchy foods so that you're not tempted to eat so much. Eat slowly so your body knows when it's full, and don't beat yourself up over a piece of pie! But instead of going back for seconds or thirds, treat yourself to one small piece.
Remember, one day of unhealthy eating doesn't make your entire lifestyle an unhealthy one, just like one day of healthy eating doesn't make your entire lifestyle a healthy one. Committing to a healthy lifestyle takes time, energy, and balance.
Like we teach children, once in a while foods like desserts are rightfully named: because they're okay sometimes. Thanksgiving is certainly one of those times. Enjoy the day with your family around the table and do something active as a group if you are able. If not? Resolve to try again tomorrow.
How to Tell When Produce is Ripe
Ken Immer | 11/18/2016
We can save money and time by using ripeness as a purchasing strategy.
When purchasing produce, the biggest question is often, “When is ______ ripe?”. A better question to ask is, “Should I buy it before it’s ripe or when it’s ripe?” Sometimes buying foods before they are ripe can be a good strategy, as long as you consider when you plan to eat it and how many days it will be stored before use. We end up wasting a lot of food because it ‘turns past its prime’ before we have a chance to eat it. We can save money and time by using ripeness as a purchasing strategy rather than just a countdown clock till you throw produce away.
Here are a few items that can be purchased at varying degrees of ripeness or being ready to eat:
- Ready to eat: When the skin is uniformly dark, and when squeezed gently it gives a bit but is not mushy. The small nub of a stem should still be attached but should come off easily with your finger.
- Timeline: Avocados start off green and very hard, but they do ripen quickly, usually within 3-4 days if purchased green. Once they are ready to eat, they can be refrigerated for 3-4 more days, whole and uncut.
- Storage: Do not refrigerate until ripe! Keep them in a countertop bowl away from sunlight. Storing in a paper bag can accelerate ripening.
- Ready to eat: Most people like to eat a banana when it is uniformly yellow, with minimal dark spots. However, they can be eaten until well spotted, as they get sweeter and softer the longer they sit.
- Timeline: Bananas, like avocados, start off green and very hard, but ripen at different rates depending on a number of factors. On average, a green banana will be ready to eat within 5-7 days. A ‘green tip’ banana which is, as it sounds, just green at the top near the stem, may take 1-2 days to become completely yellow.
- Storage: Bananas will ripen slowly in a refrigerator. However, the skin will darken more quickly than the flesh softens. Again, similar to avocados, they do well on the countertop away from the sun. Bananas are often bunched with a plastic wrapped around the stem ends, which extends their ripening time. Once removed, they ripen much more quickly.
- Ready to eat: Look for green husks that are not dried out with shiny silks. Peel back about 2 inches of the husk and make sure that the kernels are plump and tightly arranged.
- Timeline: Choose corn that is either in a refrigerated section or an especially cool part of the store. Any heat can cause it to rot very quickly. Otherwise, corn will keep 2-3 days after purchase as long as it’s kept in the husk.
- Storage: Store in the refrigerator, but really, corn is best eaten immediately.
- Ready to eat: Choose an eggplant that is firm and heavy for its size. Also look for vivid color and avoid all soft spots or bruises, as this indicates decaying flesh beneath the skin. Any indentation that does not spring back after gentle finger pressure means a past-ripe eggplant.
- Timeline: Eggplants are very perishable and have just 2-3 days after purchase before starting to decay and dry.
- Storage: Store in the refrigerator, and if purchased wrapped in plastic, remove immediately, as it keeps it from breathing and will go bad faster.
- Ready to eat: Mangoes can be purchased green, and are ready to eat when either uniformly yellow or with a red highlight. Some mangoes do retain a little bit of green when they are ripe as well, so you should also give them a little squeeze. Their sweet aroma is the best indicator since the coloring can be deceptive. Also, they should be slightly soft like an avocado, not hard like an apple when ripe.
- Timeline: Depending on the type of mango, it can take anywhere from 3 days to a week for them to fully ripen.
- Storage: Never refrigerate an unripe mango, as with other tropical fruits. However once ripe they can remain in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Melon (cantaloupe/honeydew)
- Ready to eat: Melons are a tricky bunch, as the coloring and firmness are not always reliable indicators. ‘Thumping’ is also not exactly a science. When you pick it up, it should be heavy for its size, and looking at the stem end of the fruit gives more reliable info. The stem end should be brown and not green, and should have a nice aroma. If the aroma is especially strong, however, it’s likely past its prime.
- Timeline: Again, not super reliable, but melons have a fairly long shelf-life, especially if they are picked green (green stem). They can take up to a week from purchase to completely ripen. Because of the challenges, purchasing them only ready to eat is recommended.
- Storage: Unripe melons ripen on the countertop, and stored for only a day or two in the crisper drawer where you have higher humidity
- Ready to eat: Pineapples are officially ready to eat as soon as they are picked, as they do not continue to officially ‘ripen’, but they do begin to soften and become juicier. Choosing a pineapple that is sweet and of good texture is the skill. Plucking a leaf is a good indication; it should come out easily and have a nice sweet aroma
- Timeline: Waiting to eat your pineapple only changes the texture of the fruit. Pineapples are highly perishable and will actually ferment at room temperature in a few days, so watch them closely and use within a day or two after purchase.
- Storage: The best way to store pineapple is to cut and refrigerate. But if you do refrigerate a whole pineapple, wrap it to keep it fresher longer.
- Tomato (not grape tomatoes)
- Ready to eat: Tomatoes are best eaten straight from the vine in your backyard when they are vibrant red (or yellow!), heavy, with a firm skin with just a tiny amount of give. However, store-bought tomatoes are picked green because they are highly perishable and damage easily when ripe. They will, however, turn red after picking, but never truly ‘ripen,’ which is why homegrown tomatoes are completely different from those purchased.
- Timeline: Tomatoes can take anywhere from 2 days to a week to be ready to eat after purchasing, depending on how green or hard they are at purchase. They will spoil very quickly once soft.
- Storage: Tomato texture changes dramatically when refrigerated, so they should always be kept at room temperature unless cut.
Because a lot of produce has ‘stages’ of when they are ready to eat, it really is best to think about when you want to consume them as to when you should buy them, and what stage they should be at when you do purchase them. For items like bananas and avocados that change quickly, it’s good to purchase multiple fruit in different stages (i.e. purchase 1 green and hard, 1 almost ripe, and 1 with 2-3 days of ripening left.) That way, you will always have a perfectly ripe banana or avocado on hand. A little bit of meal planning is required to make this work, but the strategy of just buying everything ‘green’ for later can backfire as EVERYTHING becomes ‘ready to eat’ at once! The best rule of thumb is to never over buy produce unless you just can’t make it to a store very often.
How to Make Your Tailgate Healthy
Lauren Wright | 09/27/2016
When you plan your football spread this year, try some of these healthier tailgate recipes.
Fall is finally here and you know what that means- football season is here! In my opinion, the best part of watching football games is the food! Classic tailgating food is delicious but unfortunately it’s usually not very healthy. When you plan your football spread this year, try some of these healthier tailgate recipes.
Snacks & Sides
- Light Buffalo Chicken Dip- Buffalo chicken and football are a classic pairing. This buffalo chicken dip uses a combination of low-fat cream cheese and plain Greek yogurt to lighten up this creamy classic. Dig in with carrot slices, celery spear, or whole grain chips.
- Seven Layer Dip- You can never have too many dips at a tailgate! This seven layer dip is packed with avocados for healthy fats, onions and tomatoes for nutrients, and Greek yogurt for half the fat.
- Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip- Have you noticed the trend here? Swap plain Greek yogurt for any sour cream and mayonnaise in creamy recipes for a light version of a dish. This time, use Greek yogurt and spices you probably already have on hand to whip up this ranch dip that’s perfect with veggie slices.
- Honey Mustard Broccoli Slaw- This light, honey mustard sauce will jazz up your standard slaw recipe. Plus broccoli has vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium!
- Grilled Chicken Sausages- There are many brands of sausages made from chicken at the grocery store these days. Swapping your typical bratwurst for chicken sausage will cut back on the calories and saturated fat. Grill and top them with your favorite condiments and you won’t even tell the difference.
- Macaroni & Cheese with Squash- Butternut squash makes this macaroni and cheese extra creamy without the added fat. Who knew you could fit veggies into a classic like mac and cheese?
- Turkey Chili- Who doesn’t love a good bowl of chili while watching the game? This chili has the great flavor you expect but uses turkey to reduce the saturated fat.
- Black Bean Brownies- Swapping flour for black beans reduces the carbs and boosts the protein content of these brownies.
- Zucchini Applesauce Cookies- Without any added fats or oils, these cookies make it easy to enjoy a healthier dessert.
One final thing to keep in mind: alcohol contains many calories (7 calories per gram!) so it’s easy to down a lot of calories without even realizing it. Choosing a light beer or wine spritzer made with sparkling water can help you enjoy your tailgate experience while watching your diet.
5 Healthy After School Snack Ideas
Lauren Wright | 08/22/2016
These healthy snack ideas are sure to please your child�۪s taste buds while fueling them for homework and play.
We’ve already talked about healthy recipes to pack in your child’s lunch box, so now it’s time to turn our attention to snack time. Kids are bound to be hungry when they get home from school and will need a snack to tide them over until dinner. Because children’s bodies grow so fast, they require a lot of nutrition packed into their daily calories, meaning there isn’t room for much junk food in their diets.
It’s important to offer snacks that provide whole grains, vitamins and minerals, fiber, and protein to fill your kids up after school and to prepare them for any extracurricular activities. It’s also important to try to cut back on the added sugar and sodium that are found in many processed snack foods.
These healthy snack ideas are sure to please your child’s taste buds while fueling them for homework and play.
- Frozen yogurt bites– Chop of your child’s favorite fruit and mix with a low-sugar yogurt. Spoon the mixture into an icecube tray and freeze. These bites are the perfect, popable treat that packs in fruit, protein, and calcium!
- Avocado toast– Avocados are a great source of healthy fats. Toast whole-wheat bread and top with sliced avocado. Sprinkle with salt, a bit of lime juice, and maybe some herbs like oregano or red pepper flakes and snack away!
- Frozen grapes– Another easy, frosty treat; freeze grapes for refreshing snacking.
- Open faced apple sandwiches– Thinly slice apples into rounds and carefully cut out the center. Top the discs with nut butter and a sprinkle of granola, honey, or cinnamon. With both protein and fiber, these sandwiches will satisfy even the hungriest snacker.
- Zucchini pizza bites– Instead of the frozen pizza rolls kids beg for at the grocery store, slice up a zucchini into thin rounds, brush with olive oil, and soften in the oven or toaster oven. Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce on top, sprinkle on low-fat mozzarella cheese, and a piece of turkey pepperoni. Pop them back in the oven until the cheese is melted. They barely take longer than the frozen pizza rolls to make, and kids will hardly notice they’re eating their vegetables!
Packed Lunch Ideas for Your Healthy Learner
Lauren Wright | 08/18/2016
Try these easy and healthy lunch recipes that your child won't want to trade.
Summer has come to an end and it’s already time for kids to head back to school. You’ve probably already bought school supplies and picked out their first-day-of-school outfits, but have you given much thought to their lunches?
Buying lunch from the cafeteria is one option for your child’s lunch this year. The National School Lunch Program Standards regulate lunches served in cafeterias, and they require that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are served every day; only fat-free and low-fat milk are available; calorie limits are observed according to the child’s age; and sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats are limited to acceptable levels. Therefore, buying lunch in the cafeteria can be a great option for many families.
However, if you choose to pack your child’s lunch, it can be hard to get nutritious lunches packed as everyone rushes out the door in the morning, and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, packing the same old things every day. No matter what you pack, aim for a mix of whole grains, dairy, protein, and fruits and veggies to keep your child well fueled and ready to learn throughout the day.
Try these easy and healthy lunch recipes that your child won’t want to trade.
- Sandwich skewers– Cut your child’s favorite sandwich ingredients into bite-sized pieces, push them onto a small skewer, and voila- you’ve transformed a boring turkey sandwich into a fun lunch! Mix and match your cheeses, meats, veggies, and breads for versatile lunch options.
- Hardboiled eggs- A peeled, hardboiled egg will transport well in your child’s lunch box and packs protein to keep him or her fueled up throughout the day.
- Peanut butter banana roll up– Smear one side of tortilla or wrap with peanut butter, place a banana to one edge and roll it up in the tortilla. Cut the roll up into bite-sized pieces. You can also try drizzling on some honey or sprinkling on granola, raisins, or cinnamon before rolling everything up.
- Freeze ahead PB&J- Save time in the morning by prepping sandwiches for the week on Sunday night. Make a whole stack of PB&Js on whole-wheat bread, wrap individual sandwiches in aluminum foil, and seal them all in a large plastic bag in the freezer. In the morning, simply grab one frozen sandwich and toss it in a lunchbox. By the time lunch rolls around, the sandwich will be thawed and perfectly soft and fresh. Prevent jelly from seeping into the bread by putting a thin layer of peanut butter on both pieces of bread to seal in the jelly.
- Popcorn trail mix– Store-bought trail mixes can be high in sugar and sodium, but it’s easy to make your own homemade version with a variety of ingredients. Mix lightly salted popcorn, nuts, and dried fruit together for a sweet and salty snack. It’s easy to change up the ingredients every week- switch up the type of nut or dried fruit, sometimes add pretzels or mini chocolate chips, etc. to keep your taste buds interested.
- Homemade Lunchables– Lunchables are always cool in the cafeteria, but they’re expensive and not that healthy. Instead, pack your child’s lunchbox with a stack of whole-wheat crackers, rolls of low-sodium sandwich meat, slices of cheese, and sliced fruits and veggies. Your kids will still have fun stacking their own lunch creations while you save money and keep it healthy. You can even prep several days’ worth of ingredients at the beginning of the week to save time on rushed mornings.
- Don’t forget a drink! Water, low-fat milk, and 100% fruit juice are good options for your child’s lunch. Children aged 4-8 need 2½ cups of dairy per day, and children aged 9-18 need 3 cups, so providing milk at lunch is a great way to fuel your child for the school day. You can send milk from home or you can have your child buy a carton of milk from the cafeteria every day. Juice can also be packed with lunch, but it’s important to choose wisely. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines count 1 cup of 100% fruit juice as 1 cup of fruit. However, many juices contain added sugars with artificial fruit flavorings, which don’t count towards daily fruit servings, so it’s important to carefully select only 100% fruit juice. The Guidelines also recommend that young children only consume 4-6oz of 100% fruit juice per day so it’s important not to over do it with juice.
- Try the recipe together first. Afraid your child won’t eat the things you pack? Try making the recipe first on the weekend or as an after-school snack and see if they like it before packing it in his or her lunch.
- Give your child options. Ask your son or daughter to choose what type of fruit or which sandwich meat they would like in their lunch to give them some control over what they’re eating.
- Don’t get frustrated. If you’re packing healthy options and they return home uneaten at first, don’t give up. Sometimes a child must try a food several times before he or she starts to like it. So even if the cucumber slices come home uneaten, don’t stop packing them. It’s important to keep exposing your child to healthy foods, and eventually, they’ll hopefully come around to eating them.
Show us what you’re packing for lunch! Tag us on Instagram @LetsGoSC or find us on Facebook!