Protect Your Children Through Mindful Eating

By Jacob Gerdes, Arizona State Nutrition Communications Student


No matter who we are, where we have come from, or where we are going we all have one thing in common and that is we need food to survive. Some of us have never had to worry where our food comes from and some deal with the insecurity of not knowing the source of our next meal. Despite whether or not food has been abundant in our lives, we each develop a specific relationship with food. Even children develop a relationship with food that remains dynamic, as they get older.

Little boy refuses to eat making unpleasant grimace, isolated over white

These relationships with food can be good or bad depending on the specific events that occur in our lifetimes. These relationships can greatly affect our lives in a negative and positive manner, in turn allowing us to thrive or causing us to suffer. In many cases, issues of obesity are caused by the relationship we have with our food, or more on point, the lack of understanding we have with our food. Many times our relationship with food can be mindless; eventually becoming a behavior partnered with some major health implications that have a widespread affect.


Obesity within the United States is a growing epidemic that, directly or indirectly, effect’s all of us. A similar unfortunate circumstance is that childhood obesity is on the rise; unfairly, in many cases, these children who are affected are raised and taught in an environment where they are conditioned to become obese. The World Health Organization (WHO) states “Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.” The Center for Disease control (CDC) supports this claim with statistical evidence that 1 in 6 children are obese and this number continues to grow.


In many cases the issue of mindful eating affect obese individuals and is stem from a lack of understanding the relationship we have developed with food or from a development of a negative relationship. The relationship that we all have with food will be passed on to our children whether or not that relationship is healthy.


How do we combat a growing issue in the U.S. where people who do not necessarily know they are increasing their children’s likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, or type-2 diabetes? One major key to solving this problem is to pass on the practice of mindful eating.


So, what is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is not a diet, rather it is a practice where you aim to develop the relationship you have with food into a healthy, reasonable, and enjoyable act. Try and think back to the last time you ate your absolute favorite meal or even just a delicious meal. Can you remember the flavor? How about the texture? Or the fragrance? How long did it take for you to eat it? How did you feel after the meal? Were you satisfied or were you overly full? These are all aspects of mindful eating that we want to be able to become more perceptive too, allowing us to understand how we feel before, during, and after a meal.


How often do you prepare a meal, sit in silence at a table, and really taste the food in front of you? Through the practice of mindful eating we can create a more enjoyable food experience and also become more aware of whether or not we have had enough to eat, avoiding the consumption of excess calories that lead to weight gain. This is a practice we want to pass down to our own children to help them develop a deeper understanding of their hunger, satiety, and health.


In a recent study conducted by the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, researchers found that mindfulness-based eating awareness increased the consumption of healthy foods, and level of exercise activity. Both of these outcomes resulted in a decrease in weight of the children that were a part of the experiment group compared to the control group.


A key concept of mindful eating is being aware of whether you are actually hungry or if the desire for food stems from somewhere, such as an emotion or from being unaware of true hunger. Eating can be an emotional experience; sometimes we eat things we know we shouldn’t or we binge; after the initial joy of eating that pint of ice cream, we beat ourselves up. Mindfulness allows us to understand ourselves, and that we are imperfect. We must be able to forgive and not worry about our mistakes. A cycle that leads us to create unhealthy eating habits is when we restrict our desires of a certain food, then we breakdown and binge, get upset that we binged, and restrict once again restarting the cycle of emotional, uncontrolled eating.


There are many different exercises that can be found online of how to develop a practice of mindful eating but if you want a simple place to begin, try preparing a meal, eating this food with your family and discuss the flavors, smells, and texture of the food. Dr. Brittanny Boulanger from Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates discusses how these practices will help children “better understand what they are eating.” This will get them thinking about what they eat and why they are eating it. The second step is to have the children clearly voice if they are full while they are eating and then to have them stop. These basics can help lay the foundation to more complex aspects of mindful eating like portion control as well as understanding a healthy balance of foods, both good and bad.


Now next time you eat, enjoy the food and the fact that you are able to be eating. Being grateful is another key aspect of mindful eating and can truly put you in the right state of mind.


To good health and enjoyable eating!




  1. WHO. Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Health: Childhood Overweight and obesity. World Health Organization. Accessed April 2016. URL:
  2. CDC. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity: Childhood Overweight and Obesity. Center for Disease Control. November 9 2015. Accessed April 2016. URL:


  1. Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “Mindfulness-based eating awareness helps adolescents eat healthier foods, be more active.” ScienceDaily. April 2016. URL:


  1. Boulanger B. SMArt Kids Practice Mindful Eating. Harvard Vangaurd Medical Associates. April 4 2013. Accessed April 2016. URL:


More Fill Your Plate Articles on Kids:

9 Tips for a Better Shopping Experience with your Children 

Homemade Baby Food: What You Need to Know 

Picky Eaters



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11 Ways to have more Veggies for Breakfast

By Laura Slatalla, Arizona State University Nutrition Student

Sometimes skipping breakfast seems like an easy way to cut calories or get some extra sleep, but the negative effects of missing the first meal of the day far outweigh the convenience, and we miss out on some yummy morning vegetables!

Three Asian Children Having Breakfast Together In Kitchen

When you don’t eat breakfast, you are more likely to overeat later in the day. Health and medical professionals explain that our bodies send a larger boost of hunger hormones the longer we’ve been fasting. Research also shows that the people who eat breakfast are more likely to make healthier choices the rest of the day, leading to healthier hearts, and are more active, especially in the morning, maintaining a healthier weight. Blood sugar levels also see fewer fluctuations and risk for type 2 diabetes is lowered. In a nutshell, breakfast is important!

A traditional breakfast doesn’t have to be just eggs and toast- vegetables are the perfect way to start your day! Let’s break out of the routine with some flavorful and fresh new ways to get some vegetables with your breakfast.

Here’s a list of ways to add more vegetables to your breakfast.

  1. Add vegetables to omelets and scrambled eggs! You can add spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. Mix it up and aim for a whole serving of vegetables to improve your morning scramble.
  2. Who doesn’t love potatoes with peppers and onions?
  3. Spread avocado on your toast and top it with tomatoes.
  4. Put some vegetables in muffins! I like to make muffins for a treat on the weekend, and adding some zucchini or carrots is delicious. Berries or raisins can be added as well.
  5. Make a broccoli, onion, and cheese quiche!
  6. A breakfast wrap with a whole wheat tortilla, avocado, egg, and tomatoes is a delicious way to work in some vegetables.
  7. Pumpkin pancakes are a great idea in the fall.
  8. Breakfast sandwiches can be loaded with fresh spinach, tomatoes, and avocados.
  9. Incorporate some vegetables into a smoothie or juice.
  10. Serve raw vegetables as a breakfast side- tomatoes, carrots, sweet peppers, and celery.
  11. Switch up your routine and have traditional lunch or dinner foods for breakfast!

Before you grab something with lots of added sugar or skip breakfast entirely, grab some vegetables and get creative. Your metabolism will be more stable. Academic and work performance will excel with that extra edge from a healthy breakfast, and you’ll have a head start on your servings of vegetables!

Try freezing muffins and meals to make breakfast even more convenient. They can just be popped in the microwave and eaten on the way out the door. Don’t wait for lunch to include those all those vitamins and minerals!

Here are a few more awesome breakfast articles from Fill Your Plate:

Easy Breakfasts Make Big Health Benefits 

– 5 Breakfast Recipes the Kiddos Will Love 

The Waffle, Our Breakfast Comfort Food


Laura Slatalla is an undergraduate student at Arizona State University, studying dietetics and working on a child nutrition certificate. Slatalla’s goal is to become a registered dietitian and work with children in a school district. She is also a part-time waitress and mom to a toddler. A couple of her hobbies are scrapbooking and reading. Says Slatalla, “I am new to blogging, but I think it is a fun break from textbooks!”


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Get to Know Your Spice Rack Better

By Veronica De Lira, ASU Nutritionist Student


Get to Know Cardamom 


I love spices! And, it’s fun to learn about them. First up is Cardamom. One, Cardamom, a nutrient-filled spice you may not have heard of, is not your average frequently-used spice, such as table salt or pepper.  But, this spice packs plenty of flavor and should definitely become a staple in your spice rack.


A Bit of Background


Cardamom is a spice that has been used for more than 4000 years — helping to make it one of the oldest spices in use. Cardamom use varies from cooking to medicine.  According to, it was all the way back in 1500 BC, that the Egyptian people were using cardamom for medicine and rituals, not to mention people also considered cardamom as a good home remedy for cleaning teeth, as it gives one fresher breath.


Egyptians, however, weren’t the only group to use Cardamom for hygiene, it was used in perfumes and oil’s by the Greeks and Romans. “Cardamom is originally from India but recently Guatemala became the main manufacturer, it is so popular it’s in higher demand than coffee in some areas”.


Cardamom is a “member of the ginger family, and an essential spice for Indian and Middle Eastern meals.”




Health Benefits and Characteristics


Cardamom can be extremely beneficial to one’s health due to its nutritional nature, it is used in many medicine-related cases due to its remedial nature.


According to, “The spice cardamom can help control disorders and serves in other health remedies, it helps control your cholesterol, fight cancer, improves blood circulation, aids in digestion, and urinary tract infections”.


According to, “cardamom has a good amount of minerals such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Essential vitamins like riboflavin, vitamin- C, and niacin are also found in cardamom.”


Some Characteristics


  • Typically comes in a whole seed.
  • A popular ingredient in Indian dishes.
  • Can be grown in a garden.
  • Comes in a variety of forms.
  • There are three forms of cardamom: white, black, and green.
  • Sometimes you may see “Cardamom,” also called “Cardamon.”
  • Since it’s a versatile spice, it can be used in many dishes.



How Do I Cook Cardamom?


Cardamom cooking is simple. It might be overwhelming on your recipes, but fear not it’s like any other spice.  It is to be noted however that cardamom can be expensive at some stores, but it is worth the purchase since the spice goes a long way, making it worth the additional cost.  Plus, cardamom is useful when combined with so many of your favorite dishes.  Here is a breakdown of how to cook cardamom:


Step 1: Take your whole or ground cardamom and heat it, you can sauté style or fry it. This allows you to get the most flavor out of the spice.


Step 2: Add spice to you dish.


Side note

 If you can find Cardamom as whole seeds that is the best choice as it has the most flavor.  They also sell powder Cardamom that which is less hassle plus allows you to try it in more dishes.


 What Can I Use Cardamom For?


Cardamom has a strong taste and packs a punch, adding a lot of flavor to meals, which makes sense why very small amounts of cardamom are used in dishes.  Cardamom is a staple in Indian dishes but it can be used in a variety of dishes and recipes such as:


  • Cakes
  • Rice Pudding
  • Tea
  • Rice
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Dressing
  • Pastries
  • Oatmeal
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Potato salad
  • Fruit salads




Recipe to Try:


Here is a great easy recipe for dessert from the by Anna Brones to try out cardamom.


Cardamom Cake:




  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk



-Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add in butter with your fingers and mix until a crumbly consistency.

-Add in egg and milk and mix until a batter consistency.

-Pour into a greased 9.5-inch circular baking pan. If you want to, sprinkle with sliced almonds or orange zest.

-Bake at 400 F for about 30 minutes.




Picture Reference

“Cardamom Spice | Culinary Uses and Health Benefits of the Queen Of Spices!” Web. 24 Sept. 2015.


Get to Know Carob

Imagine a spice that can take the place of chocolate in recipes.  Well, let me introduce you to Carob a spice that has been used for years in cooking.  Plus, carob is another fantastic, nutrient-rich spice.




Also known as John’s Bread and Locust, carob has been used in cooking since ancient Greek and Egyptian times where they found the plant and seeds as beneficial. Carob actually withstood the “last ice age”.    You can attribute its ability to withhold the ice age to its adaptability, capabilities to any conditions, which is why it is considered a reliable source for food and fuel.


Health Benefits and Characteristics


According to, carob is loaded with “nutritional values such as Magnesium, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Vitamins A, B, and D among others, it is beneficial in treating diarrhea and coughs”1  Carob is also good for :


  • Lowers blood cholesterol levels
  • Is a natural antioxidant
  • High in calcium
  • Cancer preventer
  • Aids in diabetes management
  • Aids in digestion
  • Aids in heart health
  • Aids in Weight loss


How Do I Cook With Carob?


When you cook with carob it is often as a substitute for chocolate.  Many people tend to use it due to the fact that Carob is a good alternative if you’re looking for caffeine free or in most cases sugar-free.  Based on taste preferences you could use Carob in some of your favorite recipes as a substitute. However, you may have to make some ratio changes depending on personal preferences.



What Can I Use Carob For?


When using carob it is perfect for substituting in cooking.  For example, if you are making chocolate chip brownies you could use the carob chips instead of chocolate chips.  However if you’re looking for your substitute to maintain chocolate flavoring than carob won’t help because carob and chocolate do not taste alike so your final food item will taste different.



  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate Cake
  • Pudding
  • Cheesecake
  • Cocoa



Recipe to Try:


Here is a great recipe for carob brownies to give a try from


Carob Brownie




2 cups whole-wheat flour

1/3 -cup carob powder

2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 -cup honey

1/2 -cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1-cup water

1/4 -cup chopped nuts (optional)




In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, Carob powder and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix remaining ingredients except nuts.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.  Stir in nuts if using.  Pour batter into a nonstick or lightly oiled 8-inch square-baking dish. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes.


Fun Facts

  • Carob can be used for pet food.
  • Carob is actually part of the pea family.
  • Carob also goes by the name St. John’s Bread.
  • Like turmeric due to its long life, carob is constantly being researched to study the health benefits.
  • You can grow your own Carob.




Photo credit:

“Carob Flour and Powder Conversion Calculator.” Carob Converter. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.


Get to Know Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the most commonly used spices across a variety of recipes especially once we get close to holiday time. We come across it every day, yet never think of the health benefits it has to offer.  It is actually a super food. With all the helpful health benefits this spice carries let’s learn a little more about cinnamon.


Some Background


The first use of cinnamon dates back to 2800 BC where it was found in Chinese writings known as “kwai” and praised for its medicinal properties, often celebrated for its flu and digestive-system healing capabilities.


According to, cinnamon originally comes from Sri Lanka.  People used cinnamon for medicinal purposes so frequently it became “one of the world’s most important medicinal spices,”


Cinnamon is frequently the go-to spice for not only medicinal and cooking purposes but also other important rituals.


Health Benefits and Characteristics


The following are research-based health benefits of cinnamon, which demonstrates why it is so highly used.


  • Powerful medicinal properties
  • Cinnamon is an antioxidant
  • Properties for anti-inflammatory
  • Helps cut the risk of heart disease
  • Helps lower blood sugar
  • Helps promote brain function
  • Cancer fighter


There has been some significant and very promising research in cinnamon for medicinal properties just recently as it pertains to diabetes.


What Can I Use Cinnamon For?


Cinnamon is such a versatile spice that it can be used as an addition to many recipes for a little flavor.  Here are some items that cinnamon can be added to or that you might not realize already include cinnamon:


  • Rice Pudding
  • Bananas Foster
  • Oatmeal
  • Bread
  • French Toast
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Bread Pudding
  • Waffles
  • Pancakes
  • Muffins
  • Cream of Wheat


Go to Fill Your Plate for some recipes with cinnamon.


Get to Know Saffron 

Saffron is such a unique spice and full of flavor, but unfortunately so rarely used.


Some Background


If you have ever seen saffron you know what it looks like but if not the picture above will help.  Native of Southern Europe, Saffron are thin threadlike strands that come in bundles like the one above.


Where the strands come from is the best part.  According to, saffron comes from crocus which is a flower. The saffron is the thin strands in between, unfortunately not every strand can be used for saffron as some may be poisonous. Saffron is so special that in medieval times there was actually a punishment for messing with the saffron flower.


Saffron is Not Cheap?


If you remember economics class, you’ll recall the professor discussion supply and demand. If the supply is tight or small, you’ll pay higher prices for something. That’s saffron’s story.


The price of saffron has everything to do with how it’s grown. Saffron is harvested during the autumn season. It takes roughly 72,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron. Did I mention the spice is handpicked?


Health Benefits and Characteristics


Like most spices, Saffron is also known for its medicinal properties.


  • Antioxidant
  • Disease preventing
  • Health promoting
  • Protects the body from cancers, stress, and infections
  • Rich in calcium, potassium, iron to name a few
  • Rich in vitamin- C and Vitamin A
  • Vibrant golden yellow
  • Long shelf life
  • Be on the lookout for fake saffron if it’s too red that is a warning sign.


Although saffron has many good properties to it, saffron may actually be harmful in some cases and is not recommended for certain diets.


If you do use Saffron you can incorporate it into plenty of dishes to add flavor.  Here are some examples you can incorporate Saffron with:

  • Tea
  • Rice
  • Paella
  • Soups
  • Chicken

Try out some of Fill Your Plate’s recipes to test if saffron would be a good spice choice for the dish!












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Let’s Talk About Turmeric

By Veronica De Lira, ASU Nutrition Student


Turmeric is a super food that is a fantastic, flavorful addition to our daily meals.  The health benefits are endless and should definitely be used more often.  So here is a little more about the completely underused spice known as Turmeric.




Turmeric is an old spice that has been around for 4,000 years, according to According to, it was actually early in 3000 B.C. when it was cultivated by the Harappan civilization.2 Its long life makes sense when according to turmeric has been used for thousands of years as a medical treatment in Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions as well as Indian religious ceremonies.3


According to, turmeric is actually considered part of the ginger family, they also explain that roughly 90% of all turmeric production is based in India. 2


Health Benefits and Characteristics


Turmeric has many positive benefits on the body. states, “turmeric contains vitamin C, calcium, fiber, iron, and potassium” those are just the beginning of the nutrients.”3


Turmeric is a good antioxidant. cites turmeric as being a beneficial aid in diseases like cancer, infections, inflammation, and other health problems. 1    


According to, turmeric may also be used to prevent blood clots.1


Based off the positive buzz and encouraging feedback turmeric is constantly being studied to help provide us with more information on its benefits as well as other ways it can be incorporated to better our lives.


It is golden brown in color. (See photo) Or looks like a root when freshly picked.


It is possible to plant and grow your own turmeric.


What Can I Add Turmeric Too?


One of the easiest ways I have found to cook with turmeric is to buy the spice and use it in your favorite recipes or new ones.  A bonus perk of the spice is that it allows you to be creative.  Add turmeric to:


  • Cooking oil
  • Soups
  • Drinks
  • Use it as a seasoning for meats or vegetables (I like to sprinkle a little on steaks)
  • Potato or macaroni salad


Turmeric, when used, gives off a yellow color like mustard so do not be alarmed if you notice a color change.


Recipe to try


Here is a simple turmeric recipe to try out by Bobby Flay from


Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Ginger




3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Salt To Taste




Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Whisk together the oil, mustard seeds, jalapeno, ginger, and turmeric in a small bowl.

Place cauliflower in a medium baking dish and toss with the flavored oil and season with salt.  Roast until lightly golden brown and just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve hot.




1.”Turmeric.” University of Maryland Medical Center. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.


  1. Cox, Lauren. “What Is Turmeric?” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.


  1. “Turmeric.” Turmeric the Golden Spice of Life. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.


  1. “Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Ginger: Bobby Flay : Food Network.” Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Ginger Recipe: Bobby Flay : Food Network. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.
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How to Wake Up on the Right Side of the Bed: A Slideshow

If you’re having trouble waking up in the morning and staying awake throughout the day, this slideshow is full of tips to help you out!

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