Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash & Meat Sauce

Serving size: Makes 6 servings

  • ​1 spaghetti squash
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2lbs hot italian sausage (or sausage of choice)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 jar diced tomatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Stab the squash with a fork or knife all around to poke holes in the flesh. 
  3. Microwave for about 5 minutes..it will be hot, use oven mitts to remove it.
  4. Slice the stem off the squash, then slice in the half lengthwise.
  5. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
  6. Brush with 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings (I used s&p, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning).
  7. Place squash side down on a lined cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour.
  8. While that’s cooking, set your pressure cooker on the sauté setting. 
  9. Add 1/2 onion chopped and drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil to sauté.
  10. Add 1lb ground beef (I used wagyu), and 2lbs ground sausage (I used hot Italian) mix to combine until cooked through and cancel the sauté function.
  11. Add 1 cup (1/2 jar) of tomato sauce and 1 can diced tomatoes.
  12. Cover and cook for 35 minutes. Once everything is done, plate it up and devour! 

KP’s Tip: For a crockpot version, make the squash as directed. Sauté the onion and meat in a pan, throw in the crockpot. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and cook on high for 3 hours. 

Grocery Store Hacks That Rack Your Bill Up

When you head to the grocery store, do you go with a plan, a list, or an agenda? This can help keep you on track, but most grocery stores are counting on you browsing and buying more than you need. They have many methods in place that persuade you to add extra items to your cart that you didn’t plan on buying. Before you know it, a trip that should’ve cost about $130 ends up costing closer to $250-300! Sounds like Target trips, am I right? Check out the top ten tricks the grocery store puts in place to get you to buy more than you need.

  1. The Atmosphere

Grocery stores want you to walk into a bright and inviting store. This is why the produce is front and center when you enter. It’s colorful, bright, and boosts your mood. You’ll often see the floral department or bouquets of flowers in the front entrance as well. How do flowers not brighten your mood? Another quick trick is one you hear and not visualize. The music they play in the store is made to be upbeat and make you feel good. If we know anything, we know that when we’re in a good mood, we’ll end up buying more. 

  1. Layout of the store

Ever heard the advice to stick to the perimeter of the store for healthy foods? Well, this is also where the higher ticket items are. Fresh produce, meats, fresh dairy, and seafood are all on the perimeter of the store and ironically the more expensive items as well. They also strategically have the bathrooms and staple foods items like bread, milk and eggs in the back of the store so you’ll walk through the whole store to get to them. They’re counting on you adding more items to your cart while walking to the back of the store. 

  1. Reducing the price by a penny

If you look at something that’s $4.00 versus something that’s $3.99, you perceive the $3.99 item to be cheaper. It’s been researched many times that lowering the price by just a penny persuades customers to buy it. Although we know that it’s a $4 item, we’re more likely to buy it seeing the 3 in front of it rather than the 4. 

  1. Giving percentages off rather than dollars

Using percentages off makes an item seem like more of a deal rather than giving a certain dollar amount off. If a steak is $20, most stores will advertise that it’s 20% off rather than giving $5 off. Twenty percent off is only $4 off the purchase price, even though the number of the discount is higher. So although it seems like a better deal, it may not be as great as you think! 

  1. Buzzwords

They work everytime! Putting certain words on packages automatically makes us perceive it as healthy. Seeing “gluten free”, “all natural”, “high protein”, “keto”, “paleo”, “low fat” are just a few of the buzzwords that we see on foods. These don’t necessarily make foods a healthy option, but what they will do is increase the price. You’ll end up spending more on something that you may not have needed, but because it looks healthier, you just have to try it! 

  1. Bo-Go Items

Buy-one-get one free always seems like such a great deal. However, that food or drink is overpriced and then listed as “bo-go” to get you to buy two rather than one. Companies set the price to cover the 50% off and also make a profit. So next time you see this deal, think about whether or not you really need two and if it’s actually a good deal. 

  1. Increasing Demand

Creating a false sense of urgency is a great way to create demand. When you see “limited time”, “limited release”, “new flavor”, “while supplies last” and “single-batch” you’re most likely to grab it because it’s new and something that may not be there the next time you come back. The stores are counting on you wanting to try the newest item or flavor so you grab it while you can. 

  1. Product Placement 

Every item that’s placed on the shelves is placed with intention. Ever notice that the store-brand items are often on the bottom, name brand is in the middle of the shelves and the highest priced items are towards the top? Consumers are more likely to grab the foods at eye level or higher, so the cost of the foods you buy are just a little bit higher than store-brand. 

  1. Check-out line grabs

The check-out line always has candy, gum, and snacks at the ready so you can grab a pack of gum or that sweet treat you’ve been craving. These items are purposely put at arms-reach of kids in the cart so they can grab it as well. Just another way to increase your spending amount, even by a candy bar. 

  1. Paying virtually

Credit cards and apple pay have made it SO much easier to swipe or scan and everything is paid for. This ease of payment makes the cost of the bill seem unimportant and something we don’t even think about. If you were to pay in cash and have to count it out, it makes it feel much more real. The easier it is to pay, the less we’re likely to pay attention to how much we’re spending. 

Next time you hit the grocery store, make sure to have a list of items, stick to the list and try not to be persuaded by buzzwords. Of course there’s always that one thing you want to try or that grabs your attention, but now you can be more aware of some of the tactics stores are using. Moral of the story here is grab the foods that interest you, but if you’re trying to stick to a budget, beware of these strategies!

The Scoop on Protein Powders

Protein powders are always a topic of conversation and this blog is going to help break down what they are, what types may be more beneficial for you, and if you should even be taking one. Let’s first talk about what types of protein powders are out there and why they’re different. 

  • Whey – One of the most common protein powders out there, and one of the first powders produced for mass consumption. It’s a complete protein (contains all essential amino acids) and helps with muscle repair and rebuilding post-workout. Whey comes from cow’s milk. It’s the whey that is skimmed off of milk when they make it into a cheese. It’s literally the whey in “curds and whey”. For this reason, some people’s digestive systems don’t take too kindly to it. If you don’t tolerate milk-based products well, this is probably not the powder for you. Whey protein isolate has the highest protein concentration and little fat content which make it desirable for muscle building without fat gain. 
  • Casein – This is another milk-based protein powder but is absorbed much slower and longer than whey protein. This is a great protein powder to have before bed since it will supply the body with protein overnight when you’re sleeping but your body is still recovering. Make sure to look for calcium caseinate to ensure you’re getting the purest and most absorbable form of it. 
  • Soy – Soy based powders are plant-based and are also a complete protein, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids your muscles need. This is a great alternative for those following a vegan/vegetarian diet or who are lactose intolerant. It is more tolerated in the gut, but those who can’t tolerate soy would want to look at alternatives. 
  • Brown Rice – Another plant-based protein option, but it is not considered complete. You want to make sure you pair it with other plant based protein so you do meet the essential amino acid profile your body requires. Some other protein you could pair it with include hemp or pea powder. Brown rice is also hypoallergenic and very easily digestible. 
  • Pea – A great protein powder that is plant-based and should be paired with other plant proteins like hemp or brown rice. It is also highly digestible and would blend well in smoothies. 
  • Hemp – A high-fiber plant-based protein powder that also offers up healthy fats as well. This is a great choice for a vegan or vegetarian diet, but again should be paired with one or two other plant-based proteins so you get the best protein absorption. 

Dairy-based proteins like whey and casein are great choices for their muscle building benefits as well as availability of zinc and iron if you’re not vegan or suffer from allergies. However, there is a strong case for integrating plant based proteins into your diet as they are easily digestible and have been proven to fight inflammation and reduce muscle soreness more effectively than dairy proteins. 

Since one plant based protein powder alone won’t offer a complete protein, look for a product that combines several to create a full amino acid profile. Some brands that offer this include Orgain, Plant Fusion or Vega One. They provide complete proteins, omega-3s, probiotics, greens, and antioxidants all in one serving.

Protein powders can be easy, affordable, and clean; you just need to know how to pick them. Start with figuring out what protein powder would be the best for YOUR body. One powder that works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you as well. Then figure out where it fits in your schedule. It could be easier to throw it in your morning smoothie, having it with milk or water right after a workout, or right before bed if you’re taking casein. It isn’t always about paying the highest price for a powder, it’s more about what your body likes most, and keeping the ingredients clean. Watch out for ingredients like corn syrup solids, brown rice syrup, hydrogenated oils, or hidden sugars like dextrose, glucose, or palm sugar. You still want to be able to recognize and understand what the ingredients are regardless of how much protein and fiber is in a supplement. 

If you’re ever unsure about what protein powder works for you, you should always talk to a professional about it. The best way to figure out which one works best for you is to try it. Head to a local supplement store and try to get samples of products before you invest and buy one. If you’re going to spend the money, you want to make sure it’s the right product for you. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us!

Multivitamins: are they necessary and do you need one?

Should you be taking a multivitamin?

Before you can answer this question, you need to first take a look at your diet and any health conditions you are currently experiencing.  

  1. Are you eating a well-rounded diet? Have you cut out any food groups?

It is important to first get your vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. You will get more nutrition from the diversity of the foods and more fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that you cannot get from supplementation. These elements of whole foods prevent diseases and improve bowel movements. However, no one person’s diet is perfect. Many people cut out certain food groups, such as dairy, for health reasons.  If this is true for you, a multivitamin may be beneficial to fill in the gaps. 

  1. Do you have a health condition that may cause you to not be able to absorb certain nutrients, or cause you to need more of a certain nutrient?

Many digestive complications such as Crohn’s disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease can lead to malabsorption of certain nutrients. Over a period of time, nutrient deficiencies can develop and cause various symptoms. Talking to a dietitian and your doctor about your disease and possible nutrient deficiencies that may result can help you decide which vitamins you should be focusing on.  Getting your vitamin and mineral levels checked can reveal if you need more than what a multivitamin can offer. If this is the case, you may be recommended to take individual supplements that have higher doses for what you need. In some situations, like being pregnant, you may need more of certain nutrients such as folic acid and iron. Pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin.

You can never go wrong with talking to your dietitian and doctor about taking a multivitamin or a specific vitamin/mineral supplement. Explain your current diet and any health conditions you are experiencing. Above all, focusing on eating more foods in their whole and natural forms will always benefit you. You cannot overdose on nutrients when eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains. However, you can reach a toxicity level from popping a higher dose of vitamins/minerals than you need. 

Above all, if you are eating a balanced diet and are not experiencing any health conditions that require you to need more of certain nutrients, you may be better off saving your money and continuing to focus on your diet!

–Tara Greenwood Penn State University Dietetics Student

Edible No-Bake Cookie Dough

Serving size: 1 piece; Makes about 15 pieces

  • ​1 cup oat flour (process oats in food processer until ground to a powder)
  • 1 cup protein powder of choice (I used chocolate plant-based powder)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (and 1-2 tbsp for topping)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Mix oat flour, protein powder, peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Add chocolate chips and stir to mix.
  3. Dump cookie dough in 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.
  4. Press down to flatten and put in fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Take out of the fridge, chop into bite-sized pieces and store in air-tight container. Throw back in the fridge to keep them fresh or store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  6. Enjoy bites of cookie dough for that afternoon pick-me-up or an on-the-go snack!

KP’s Tip: Adding protein powder is a great way to boost protein. Use whatever flavor you have. You could also use 2c oat flour if you don’t want to use a protein powder. Get creative and use different toppings as you see fit!

Recipe adapted from: https://www.mealswithmaggie.com/no-bake-cookie-dough-bars/#tasty-recipes-3743

Original & Maple Brown Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Serves 4-6 from each flavor

  • ​Pumpkin Seeds (extracted from 3 pumpkins)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp maple extract
  1. Separate pumpkin seeds from what I call “pumpkin guts” and rinse well in cool water in a colander. Make sure most of the pumpkin is off the seeds. 
  2. Preheat oven to 300⁰ and line cookie sheet with parchment paper, separated in the middle for both flavors. 
  3. Lay out a dish drying mat and lay pumpkin seeds in a single layer on mat. 
  4. Pat dry with paper towels and try to get as much moisture out of the seeds as possible. 
  5. In a bowl, combine olive oil, salt, pepper, half the amount of seeds, and mix. 
  6. In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, maple extract, and the other half of the seeds and mix. 
  7. Lay out pumpkin seeds on cookie sheet, in a single layer. 
  8. Roast in oven for 45 minutes or until crispy. 
  9. Take out of oven and serve immediately!

KP’s Tip: Pumpkin seeds are a great snack since they offer up a great deal of protein fiber, and healthy fats. Sure, you can buy store-bought pumpkin seeds, but the sodium content in them is extremely high. Making them yourself allows you to control the sodium content.

Good vs. Bad Foods

I hear it ALL the time, “this food’s good for you” or “this food is bad for you”. But where do these definitions come from and why do we feel the need to place them in categories to make us feel a certain way about eating them? Defining a food as good or bad only puts the notion of how you’re going to feel after you eat a certain food. Are you going to feel good after eating a bagel and cream cheese if you consider it bad? Well, of course not if you’re defining these foods as bad. It’s time to throw away the idea that foods can be categorized as one thing or the other. It’s not about food being good or bad, it’s about what your body needs and wants and listening to it! 

So let’s explore what we consider “good” and “bad”. After a fun little Facebook poll, I was able to see what you think makes a food good and bad. 

Here are some answers for “good” foods:

  • A food in its natural state
  • Makes you feel good and does good things for you 
  • Grown from the Earth naturally 
  • Minimally processed
  • You know where it’s coming from (ie; produce stand or butcher)

And here are the answers for “bad” foods:

  • Makes you feel bad after you eat it 
  • Processed or injected with preservatives or dyes
  • Fried or really heavy meals
  • Foods high in sodium or fat 
  • Foods with a lot of ingredients or really shelf-stable

Now that we’ve identified the good and the bad, let’s throw this whole idea out and start thinking about foods differently. We need to stop villainizing foods and making ourselves feel guilty over eating certain foods. This pulls us away from listening to our bodies and eating intuitively, and closer to eating what we think we should eat rather than what we want to eat. 

In order to allow ourselves to stop categorizing foods, you need to start thinking about the foods you genuinely enjoy and how to incorporate them into your day to day. If you love mac and cheese (like me), it shouldn’t be something that you’re afraid to eat or only eat on special occasions. It should be a food that you have when you want it, and get satisfaction from. Allowing yourself to enjoy the foods you love can help limit the feeling of needing to over eat that food. The more you restrict, the more you want it; so why deprive yourself? Every fad diet out there will give you a list of “no” foods and a list of “yes” foods. All this does is reinforce the categorizing of good and bad foods. 

We give food way too much power than it deserves. We allow it to adjust our social life, make us feel restricted, and sometimes even affect the relationships we have with others. If you want to stop feeling so powerless towards dieting, you have to take the power for yourself. Stop being afraid of foods and start loving foods. Be comfortable, happy and confident with the choices you make. The more intuition you put into eating, the more empowered you feel and the more you’ll want to eat foods that make you feel better as a whole. 

Eating intuitively takes time, patience, and lots of rewiring our brains. Working with a Registered Dietitian can help you plan, strategize, and ensure you’re not overwhelmed with changing the way you see foods. Just remember that no one food is going to sabotage your hard work and the less stress you put on yourself, the easier the transition will be. 

Banana Sushi

Serves 1

  • 1 whole wheat wrap
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp chocolate chips
  1. Place wrap on a cutting board and spread wrap with peanut butter, spreading on only the left or right side of the wrap. Use a small dab of peanut butter on the opposite side of the wrap to help it stay closed once you roll it up.
  2. Top peanut butter with chocolate chips, banana, roll it up and cut up into bite-sized pieces for a perfect, kid-friendly snack!

KP’s Tip: Use other fun toppings like rice krispies cereal, berries, or chia seeds to add a crunch and different flavor to your sushi.

Vitamin C, Vitamin D & your Immune system

Your New Best Friends for Immune Health–Vitamin C and Vitamin D

In these times of COVID-19, we are becoming more aware and knowledgeable about how illnesses spread. We know that it is important to wash our hands, refrain from sharing drinks, and be cautious of our distance between our friends and family–But how do you set your body up for success when you DO come into contact with germs? Vitamin C and Vitamin D have your back.

Vitamin C Immunity Benefits

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and plays a major role in the growth and repair of our bodies. It prepares your body to fight and then speeds up your recovery if you do end up getting sick. In other words, paying more attention to getting Vitamin C into your diet can decrease the length of time you are sick for, allowing you to recover faster and get back on track.

How can I get Vitamin C?

Vitamin C must be consumed through food because it cannot be produced by your body. Great sources of Vitamin C include fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, green and red bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kiwi. Many of these foods can be enjoyed cooked as well as raw. If you do decide to cook your fruit/veggie, be cautious around how long the food is being cooked for and how high the heat is. Too much heat for long periods of time can decrease nutrients in the food.  Microwaving or steaming are good options to minimize nutrient loss while still achieving the desired texture of a cooked food.

Vitamin D Immunity Benefits

A lack of Vitamin D has been proven to correlate with an increased risk for infection. In fact, Vitamin D used to be used to fight tuberculosis before antibiotics were created! This is because Vitamin D is expressed on your immune cells. Vitamin D decreases inflammatory processes, increases antiinflammatory processes, and helps the body better absorb minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. 

How can I get Vitamin D?

Your main source of Vitamin D is the sunshine! Try getting out of the house when taking a break from work for just 15-20 minutes to soak up the sun on your bare skin.  Spending well over this amount of time without sunscreen or protective clothing on is Vitamin D overkill and can increase risk for burns.  It may sound simple to get your daily Vitamin D dose, but over half of the world is deficient because most daily routines in this day and age require us to be inside. Vitamin D can also be absorbed through food, but these food sources are not common or accessible to many.  Vitamin D rich foods are cod liver oil, salmon, swordfish, tuna fish, orange juice fortified with Vitamin D, milks fortified with Vitamin D, sardines, and beef liver.

Should I supplement Vitamin C and/or D to make sure I am getting enough?

It is recommended to focus on getting nutrients from food sources (food and sun in the case of Vitamin D) before supplementing. Look back at the food sources for Vitamin C and Vitamin D and choose a few that you would enjoy eating.  If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to be consistent. Supplementation should fill in the gaps. However, research has shown that half of the world is not able to get enough Vitamin D from food and sunshine. Therefore, many could benefit greatly from taking a supplement. It is important to talk to your dietitian or doctor to make sure you are getting the correct amounts for you. 

  • Written by Tara Greenwood, Penn State University Nutrition & Dietetics Student

Bento Box

Serves 1, Serving size 1 box

  • 2 eggs, hard boiled
  • 1/4 cup hummus (flavor of your choosing)
  • 3/4 cup raw vegetables (carrots, celery, cucumber)
  • 1 cheesestick (mozzarella, cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup berries
  1. Place 2 hard boiled eggs in lunch container. Add in hummus cup, raw veggies, cheesestick and fruit.
  2. Repeat with as many containers as needed for lunches or dinner for the week.
  3. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Calories 402. Fat 21g, Protein 26g, Carbs 29g

KP’s Tip: Feel free to switch up the fruit, veggies and cheesestick you use to give yourself variety and change up the flavors.