Monday, July 25, 2016

Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinners for Busy Parents

Planning family meals can be a challenge when we get busy, but we know that eating together is one of the best ways to eat more healthfully while sharing and caring for each other. How can you make this happen? Try some of these ideas for quick dinners:

Hold Special “Buffet” Nights!
  • Host a salad bar, and allow family members to create their own personal salad.  Have large bowls of shredded/torn lettuce for each person to make their own salad. Smaller bowls of add-ins will give each person a chance to customize their own favorites. Diced meat, shredded cheese, cubed tomatoes, sliced sweet peppers—the list is nearly endless! Have a variety of low-fat dressings to top the salad.
  •  Make Your Own Taco Night is often a hit! Brown low-fat hamburger ahead of time and refrigerate, then set out taco shells, the hamburger, salsa, and shredded lettuce and cheese. Clean-up is quick, too!
  •  Sandwich Night can be fun when you have a selection of low-fat sliced meats to pick from. Remember the whole grain bread or buns! Rinse some lettuce leaves and slice some tomatoes, then have spreads like mustard and mayonnaise for each person to add to their sandwich. Or, if your kids love peanut butter and jelly, set those out for them to make up their own PB&J sandwiches!

How about breakfast for dinner? Mix up a batch of pancakes, brown up some sausage or ham, cut up a big bowl of fresh fruit, and serve breakfast for dinner! Kids love to mix up the foods they eat!  Another breakfast idea might be a cereal or oatmeal bar.  Have different kinds of whole grain cereals available for your kids to choose from.  Include fresh fruits like blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and bananas. 

Slow-cookers aren’t just for winter eating! Soups are a filling meal all year long or mix up a big pot of veggies with chicken and enjoy a steamy stew.  Need a soup idea?  See our previous blog post on One Dish Meals for a quick and easy meal idea the whole family will love!  
Another tip: Another great tip to try if you have more time to cook on the weekends is to prepare family meals ahead of time and freeze them. Use the microwave to re-heat the meal when you need it. Chili, lasagna, and casseroles are all great re-heated meals.

Remember to serve low-fat or non-fat milk with your meals and have fruit for dessert. Now, sit back and enjoy some family time!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Corn Season is Here!

 What better way to celebrate summer than with corn? You can find corn year round in the can or in the frozen section of the grocery store, but fresh corn is best during the summer months. You can usually find them in farmers’ markets and grocery stores still in their husks. Corn has many health benefits including being high in fiber, antioxidants, and B vitamins.

Shopping for Corn on the cob
  • Look for husks that are fresh and green.  The husk should feel firm and heavy. Pull back the husk to look for plump kernels.
  • If you find a lot of fresh corn on the cob on sale you can shuck them and freeze them for later use during the fall or winter months.

Shucking Corn on the cob
  • Peeling or “shucking” the husks can be messy but if you hold the corn over a plastic bag it can make it easier to clean up.
  • Hold the base of the corn firmly and peel back the outer husk. Grab the silks at top and peel those back. It may leave a few strands of silk on the cob but you can remove those after.

 Time to Eat!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Time for Fun in the Sun

Summer is a great time to get outdoors and get moving! Being active helps kids and adults have stronger muscles and bones. It also helps you sleep better at night. Try to encourage kids to be active for at least sixty minutes every day. 

Some ideas:

  • Hopscotch: be creative! Use chalk to make a hopscotch course, with numbers or letters in the shapes. Let kids take turns giving directions such as “spin around on the number 5” or “hop on your left foot to the letter D.”
  • Gardening: it may not seem like activity, but digging holes and watering plants can work up a sweat! As a bonus, kids may be more likely to eat a veggie if they help to grow it.
  • Frisbee: throwing a frisbee back and forth is a great way to practice catching skills without needing a lot of expensive equipment or gloves. Check your local dollar store for a frisbee
  • Crazy walks: when going for a walk, add some challenges to get your heart beating and keep kids interested! Try skipping, hopping, walking backwards (carefully), or walking sideways.

  • Stay hydrated! When it is hot outside, we sweat more and lose water through our skin. Keep a cold water bottle nearby and remind kids to take drink breaks during their play.
  • Stay protected! It is easy to lose track of time while having fun in the sun, but it is important to always wear sunscreen. Reapply according to the directions on the bottle or after getting wet. Take a few minutes as a family to put on sunscreen before every time you go outside, even on cloudy days.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Canning and Freezing Foods

 Summer is a great time to get fresh fruits and vegetables from the farmers market.  Growing your own garden also provides a lot of fresh produce that you want to preserve for the winter months.  Canning and freezing is a great way to preserve the fresh fruits and veggies from the summer to use during the winter months.


Canning food has been around for centuries. Home canning is a great way to preserve the taste of your favorite local produce year round.  Canning and food safety has changed since 1998, so you will want to check the latest resources and canning recipes to make sure you are canning the fruits and veggies safely. The trusted resources for canning recipes come from the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2015 revision, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
The University of Maryland Extension offers workshops and free advice about canning. Canning with friends and family is a great way to socialize, and preserve food that you can enjoy later on in the year.     

Some of the popular fruits and vegetables to can during the summer include:  corn, green beans, tomatoes, apples, grapes, and peaches.

Freezing is another way that you can preserve fresh fruits and veggies.  Different fruits and vegetables will require a special preparation method to keep their high nutritional value.
Below are links for food preservation workshops offered in Maryland, as well as how to freeze different types of produce. It is important to note that freezing food does not kill bacteria. If something goes into the freezer contaminated, it is likely to come out of the freezer contaminated too.
For more information about food preservation:

Fruits and veggies that are great to freeze are:  berries, peaches, apples, asparagus, corn, broccoli,  and peppers.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Kid's Corner: My Plate Kids Place

A healthy diet is both delicious and fun, but sometimes it takes a little creativity to get our kids to eat balanced meals.  With MyPlate Kids Place, you can turn healthy eating into a game to help your child learn healthy habits for their whole life.  MyPlate Kids Place, created by the USDA, includes games, activities, videos, songs, and more to help make healthy eating exciting for the kids in your life.  Have your child learn healthy ways of eating while playing a fun computer game. 
For kids, life is all fun and games. With MyPlate kids place, their food can be full of fun and games too!  MyPlate Kids Place offers several links to games involving food groups and healthy eating. One game called “Blast Off” lets kids fuel their rockets with servings from each food group and daily physical activity.

Songs and Videos
MyPlate Kid’s Place provides videos for you and your children to watch together about eating healthy and physical activity as well as a few songs you can dance and sing to together.  One song called “Alive with Five Groups” sings about getting all five food groups into your diet.

MyPlate Champions!
Once your child has learned all about MyPlate and healthy eating, you can print a certificate and help your child pledge to become a MyPlate Champion! Getting kids excited about healthy eating can be easy when you use your resources, and MyPlate Kid’s Place is a favorite for kids, parents and educators alike. Log on to and become a MyPlate Champion today!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Shop Around at the Farmers' Market

Late spring into the summer is the perfect weather to go to a farmer’s market.  Farmers’ markets are a great way to eat the fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season now.  You might also find a new type of produce to try!  There are many different farmer’s markets in located across the state of Maryland.  Check out to find one near you.

 Farmers’ markets are also a great place to start talking to your children about fresh fruits and vegetables.  Turn your trip into a scavenger hunt by having your child look for new fruits and vegetable to try.  This is a great way to get your child to be excited about fruits and vegetables.

Here are some fruits and vegetables to try this spring and summer in Maryland:

  • Berries
  • Arugula
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Green Beans
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Spinach
  • Plums
  • Potatoes
  • Peaches

And many more!! After heading to your local farmers' market, try one of these yummy and healthy recipes with your favorite fruits and vegetables!

Crookneck Squash Pasta Salad
MyPlate Salsa
Berry Good Pizza
Confetti Spaghetti