Three Tip for Losing Weight and Feeling Healthier Today

By Kevin Dietmeyer, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

Losing weight can feel like climbing a mountain with a peak that seems to grow larger and further away with every aching step.  With so many obstacles in front of you and so many routes to the top, how do you decide which is right for you?  How many calories should I be eating each day?  How much protein do I actually need?  Is juice bad?  Do I really need to eat six small meals every day?

Eating for weight-loss and, nutrition, in general, will never be one size fits all.  Human beings are unique and for that reason, each one of us has unique dietary needs.  In fact, the ideal diet for you right now may not be your perfect diet or pattern of eating in five years, or even in five months.  While there is no dietary slipper to fit all of us, here are three rules of thumb that can help anyone get started on the road to healthy habits and weight loss.


If it comes in a box or a wrapper, put it down


Fresh foods don’t come with instructions.  If you’re cooking most of your meals with fresh ingredients, you’re on your way to a healthier you.   Try to keep your kitchen full of things that have a natural expiration date.  In other words, the foods you buy should have a foreseeable life span.


Eat the same number of meals every day 


If you want to eat 6-8 small meals a day, then do it.  If you eat three square meals each day, then do that every day.  It can be easy to reduce or increase your calories if you follow the same eating pattern every day.  It’s a lot harder if your eating habits look like a seven-year-old peppered the wall with foam darts.  Eating eight small meals today and two tomorrow after skipping breakfast is a metabolic mess.  Predictable meal timing will lead to predictable weight loss.


Drink a liter of water when you wake up


I feel like I shouldn’t have to tell a desert dweller this, but you need to drink water.  In fact, most of you is made of water and your body runs a lot of important operations on waterpower.  You can go days and weeks without food but you won’t last long without water.  Keep a liter of water prepped for the morning and before you do anything else, start gulping it.


It’s not hard to lose weight or stay in shape. Follow a plan that works for you, and you’ll be on your way to success!



Posted in Arizona, Diet Tips, Food, Health Tips, Healthy Eating | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kill Off Sugar From Your Diet

By Alise Robers, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

One of the most dangerous items in our diet is something we all know and love: Sugar.

This seductively sweet substance is the most popular ingredient added to foods in the US, and plays a crucial role in disease and premature aging.1 It has snuck into our ketchup, cake, cookies, bread, cereal, peanut butter, meats, soups, frozen meals, crackers, and even salad dressing.1,2 However, soft drinks take the cake with a whopping 10 teaspoons of sugar in a single can even though nutritionists suggest we only have 9.4 teaspoons of added sugar per day!

However, soft drinks take the cake with a whopping 10 teaspoons of sugar in a single can. Nutritionists suggest we only have 9.4 teaspoons of added sugar per day, for reference.6 Two hundred years ago the average American consumed 2 pounds of sugar a year.

Two hundred years ago the average American consumed 2 pounds of sugar a year.5 Sugar is denatured, devitalized, and shouldn’t be consumed at all, but today we are consuming 140-160 pounds of sugar per year!1,5 The typical American diet can easily give you almost 50 teaspoons of sugar a day, which represents about 800 empty calories.1 The average American is consuming about 20 teaspoons per day.3 This ends up being a large part of your body’s total daily requirement of food energy and is largely responsible for the fatigue, irritability, depression, and pain so many sugarholics are suffering from.1,3

Sugar in its natural state actually contains valuable nutrients. The refining process is what destroys sugar and makes it a very poor source of energy. The convenience and price of this substance are what give it the upper hand.  It lures you in under the impression that it is a “feel good” food, which in a way is true. Sugar is absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream and this is when you get a rush of energy (feel good). 1,3 As a result, the pancreas releases large amounts of insulin to try and bring your blood sugar back down.1 Once these levels have dropped you feel tired and are left with the hunger for more sugar. This up and down cycle is extremely hard on your body and can be easily avoided by simply reading nutrition labels. Paying attention to food labels is important because of how many different products sugar is hiding in.

This up and down cycle is extremely hard on your body and can be easily avoided by simply reading nutrition labels. Paying attention to food labels is important because of how many different products sugar is hiding in.4 It goes undercover and even uses different aliases. Some of sugar’s most common disguises are listed below.


  • Glucose
  • Corn syrup
  • Sorbitol
  • Molasses
  • Maltose
  • Corn sweetener
  • Sucrose
  • Brown sugar
  • Fructose
  • Honey
  • Lactose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Dextrose


At this point, you may be thinking that artificial sweeteners are the next best thing, especially because they are even FDA approved. Sadly, they are just as bad. These sugar wannabes are found in many foods and beverages and are marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet”. They are found in soft drinks, jellies, chewing gum, baked goods, candy, fruit juice, ice cream, and even yogurt. However, the FDA has established an acceptable daily intake for each artificial sweetener that is supposed to be about 100 times less than the smallest amount that might cause health concerns.2

Our bodies have been trying to tell us that it needs a full assortment of nutrients to survive and that sugar (in the amounts that we eat it) just won’t do the trick. Sugar is the culprit of so many health issues like obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.1 The elimination of refined sugar is a huge step towards a disease free, pain-free life!



Posted in Cooking, Food, Food Facts, Food Production, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, In the Kitchen | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 20 Ways to Cook Okra

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

I already know what you’re thinking. When you are trying to whip up a quick lunch or dinner for your family you don’t think of including okra. You probably go for carrots, green beans, or squash; in other words, things you and your family are familiar with. These are also veggies grown here in Arizona. You might not realize it, but we grow okra here too!

Okra doesn’t have a very strong taste, which means it can be combined with lots of different fruits, veggies, and meats to create one-of-a-kind, flavorful dishes. Try breading it and baking or frying it the first time you serve okra to your family. Otherwise, try one of these delicious dishes!

  1. Hearty Hamburger Stew
  2. Roasted Okra
  3. Fried Okra
  4. Okra Patties
  5. Okra and Tomatoes
  6. Okra Salad
  7. Pickled Okra
  8. Ham & Okra Roll Ups
  9. Okra Curry
  10. Okra Ratatouille
  11. Egyptian Beef and Okra
  12. Okra Gumbo
  13. Cajun Fried Okra
  14. Skillet Okra and Rice
  15. Okra Soup with Shrimp
  16. Easy Indian Style Okra
  17. Turkish Okra Casserole
  18. Garden Salad with Fried Okra Croutons
  19. Sweet and Sour Okra
  20. BBQ Okra

Don’t be intimidated by a veggie you’ve never cooked before! Okra is easy to use, and a great place to start when wanting to spice up your meals.

At Fill Your Plate we are always looking for new recipes. If you love cooking with okra leave your favorite recipe in the comments!

Posted in Arizona, Cooking, Food, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boost your Immune System with Chicken Soup

By Lori Meszaros, Recent Arizona State University Student 

Ever wonder why we turn to chicken soup when we get sick? Well, the ingredients in chicken soup just happen to contain the nutrients we need to boost our immune systems and give our bodies what they need to help us fight off the common cold or seasonal flu!

We’ve all been there, someone around us starts coughing or sneezing and we think, ‘No I can’t get sick now!’ Hand sanitizer becomes our new lotion and we stock up on antibacterial soap. While these things are helpful in preventing the spread of germs, they’re the not only thing you can do to help prevent yourself from getting this seasons dreaded cold or flu.

On average, people get two or three colds a year. However, with a strong immune system your body can fight off the common cold or flu. Research supports exercise has positive effects in boosting your immune system, but foods such as homemade chicken soup can boost your immune system, too!

Your immune system is your bodies defense that helps protect you against viruses and bacterial infections. The stronger your immune system, the better you can fight off illness and your body recovers faster.

 Exercise and your immune system

Exercise has shown to not only improve your physical fitness, but also boost your immune system. A 2014 study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity demonstrated that moderate activity, like a brisk walk or easy jog as opposed to intense physical activity can increases a person’s immunity and reduce the risk of illness. The study further demonstrated that individuals who add moderate levels of activity to their daily routines from a young age and continued activity through life had higher levels of leukocytes, the white blood cells responsible for protecting our bodies against infectious diseases and foreign invaders.


Chicken soup and your immune system

Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported foods containing high amounts of antioxidants, like vitamins A, C and E, along with beta carotene and selenium increased the bodies immunes response. This helps prevent infectious diseases such as the common cold and seasonal flu. Vitamin B6, unsaturated fatty acids, like Omega 3 and zinc have also shown to boost the immune system and reduce the severity and length of colds and flu.

Using soup to heal the body isn’t anything new. Soup dates back to 4000 B.C, and was widely used for its restorative or healing powers. Even before the age of modern medicine, soup was used as a remedy and has continued to be used for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). So it makes sense that we turn to chicken soup when we are sick to ease our symptoms.


I love making soups from scratch, and here’s my homemade version of chicken soup I make when my kids start sniffling and sneezing.


Chicken Orzo Soup

Serves 4



4-6 pieces, chicken thighs

½ brown onion, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 small potatoes, small diced

1 carrot, small diced

2 tbsp veggie stock concentrate* + water

1 cup orzo (pasta shaped like rice)

½ cup peas



  • Season chicken with ground coriander and cumin then sauté in sauce pan over medium high heat until browned on both sides, remove chicken from pan.
  • Sauté onion and celery in chicken fat for about 2 minutes
  • Add garlic and sauté another 20 seconds, then add potatoes, carrot and veggie stock concentrate* and sauté for 3 minutes (see note below)
  • Add chicken back to pan, along with orzo, peas and enough water to cover everything
  • Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes covered, stirring occasionally, checking water to make sure everything stays covered
  • Garnish with green onions if desired


Serve with crusty bread or crackers




  • You can substitute veggie stock concentrate with store bought vegetable stock, just use enough to cover veggies and chicken with at least 1” of stock.
  • If using stock instead of concentrate when sautéing potato and carrot, use 2-4 tbsp stock instead of veggie stock concentrate.
  • Bouillon cube equivalents 1 cubes = 2 tbsp veggie stock concentrate


Fill Your Plate has loads of yummy soup recipes you can try, and if you happen to get sick check out What to Consume When the Flu Comes On.





Epping J. Multiple roles played by vitamin A in the immune system. 2011. Medical News Today.


Kirschmann JD. Nutrition almanac, 6th ed. 2007. McGraw Hill, New York.


Moro-Garcia MA, et al. Frequent participation in high volume exercise throughout life is associated with a more differentiated adaptive immune response. Brain, Behavior and Immunity. 2014; 39:61-74.


Varela SL, et al. Functional foods and the immune system: a review. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012; 56(3):29-33.





Posted in Chicken, Cooking, Food, Health Tips, Healthy Eating | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Say ‘JELL-O’ to vitamins

By Kat Brown, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

Did you ever think about making your own vitamins at home? It is easier than you think. Making your own JELL-O vitamins allows you to choose your own flavors and choose your vitamins. Here is how you make them:

  • 1 three ounce packet flavored gelatin
  • 4 one ounce packets unflavored gelatine
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons each: Potassium, Vit C, and B12 powder

Mix all gelatin and vitamins into boiling water until completely dissolved and refrigerate for one hour. Makes 16 two-ounce servings.

Why should you make these?

Vitamin or mineral supplements may be necessary when your daily diet doesn’t provide all the essential nutrients your body needs. Supplementation may be recommended if you are on a restrictive diet, pregnant, or have other specific health needs. These can also be perfect for that picky eater or kids! Hiding vitamins in fun foods is a great way to sneak important nutrients into your child’s diet. You can pick any vitamins in a powder or liquid form and you can also choose any flavor of gelatin you prefer. Here is some information on the vitamins I chose for this recipe.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient since your body cannot make it. This means you have to get vitamin C in your diet either through foods or supplements. The RDA for vitamin C is 75mg for women and 90mg for men. Foods high in vitamin C include:

  • Sweet red peppers 283 mg/cup
  • Papaya 188 mg each
  • Strawberries 98 mg/cup
  • Grapefruit 72 mg/cup

What to look for

Vitamin C is often referred to as ascorbic acid. The oxidized form DHA, dehydroascorbic acid, can also be used in supplements and for the most part, is the same as ascorbic acid. However, DHA will not be absorbed if there is a lot of glucose in the blood since it competes with the same receptor.  The UL or upper limit for vitamin C is 2,000mg so you may need to be careful when mega-dosing.

Vitamin B12

B12 is part of the B complex of vitamins and is mainly found in animal products such as dairy and meat. The family of B vitamins helps your body produce energy and maintain your metabolism. B vitamins are crucial in fighting off infections and can even help boost your memory! B12 is specifically required for brain, nerve, and blood cell development and function.

B complex

B vitamins are often sold as a B complex vitamin that contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B12, and folic acid.  The RDA for vitamin B12 is 2.4ug per day. For individuals who do not consume a lot of animal products, a supplement form of B12 may be necessary.


This mineral aids in muscle contraction and is an important mineral in regulating fluids and blood pressure. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for potassium is 4,700 mg/day. On average American’s only consume half of the recommended amount of potassium. Here are some foods that provide a lot of potassium:

  • Kale 342 mg/cup
  • Bananas 422 mg
  • Tomato juice 417 mg
  • Broccoli 457 mg/cup

Why potassium?

A healthy diabetic diet is often high in potassium. Potassium can be found in a wide variety of foods including vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat, and nuts. Often time when people think of potassium they immediately think of bananas but as you can see broccoli has just as much potassium as a banana.

Vitamins and minerals are necessary for our bodies to function normally and be healthy. For more blogs on keeping your body supplied with the right nutrients, visit Fill Your Plate!



Posted in Cooking, Eggs, Food, Fruit, Grocery, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment