How To Protect Our Children From Childhood Obesity

By Kenda Hettinger a recent ASU Nutrition Student

Why should we be concerned?


We recently got some sad news regarding childhood obesity, it’s has not gotten much better over the last few years. The national obesity rate for children age 10-17 is 15.3%, compared to 16.1% in 2016. Another way to look at this, 4.8 million kids in the United States are obese. Arizona is below the national average, at 13.2%.


Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis, and many more complications. Controlling our weight is so much more than how we look and fit in our clothes. Our weight affects how our bodies operate and grow.



How do we protect our kids?




  1. Education – Start by educating your children on why we eat. We consume food to fuel our bodies. In my home, we eat dinner together and we often go over the benefits of what we are eating. My five year old will tell you that nuts help your brain, vegetables help prevent illness, and water is the most important thing you put in your mouth. It helps when our kids understand that our foods have very important roles in our bodies.


  1. Exercise – Make it a family affair. There are great kids yoga and exercise videos available for free on YouTube. Buy a ball and go outside to kick it around while you grill some non-processed meats and veggies. Pack up dinner and take it to a park to play and picnic.


  1. Diet – The best change most anyone can make is to take the refined sugars out of the diet. Candy, desserts, sodas, sweetened teas, and juices should all be limited to special occasions only. Focus on vegetables because they have the most nutrients for the least amount of calories. When losing weight specifically, vegetables should make up the largest portion of your plate.



Below is a great illustration from Harvard Chan’s school of public health on how a kid’s plate should be structured.

Fill your plate has many wonderful resources for a healthy lifestyle. Check out the recipe section or the produce in season tab for more information










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Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

By Kenda Hettinger a recent ASU Nutrition Student


Mental health has become a major issue in the United States. According to the CDC, 1 out of 6 adults will have depression at some point in their lifetime and 3.2% of children ages 3-17 years old have diagnosed depression. The evidence is stacking up that diet can be to blame and can also be the fix. Signs and symptoms of depression are:

Mental health has even become an issue in the agricultural community.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

If you are thinking about suicide text HELLO to 741741.


In 2014, a systematic review was published in the American Society for Nutrition.  According to this analysis, studies competed on individual nutrients were inconsistent and did not consider how nutrients work together in whole foods. The authors pooled 13 observational studies and concluded that a diet high in fruit, vegetables, fish, and whole grains is associated with lower depression risk. They also felt like more evidence was needed to confirm this finding.


In 2017, a meta-analysis turned the data around and linked a poor diet with increased depression risk. They found that high intakes of red and/or processed meats, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, and potatoes with high-fat gravy increase your risk of depression.


The most recent study, published on October 9, 2019, found that even a brief diet intervention can reduce depression symptoms. This trial put young adults, who had previously eaten a standard western diet, on a Mediterranean-style diet. They were instructed to increase their intake of vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereals, lean meats, tofu, legumes, fish, nuts, and seeds. They were also instructed to use the spices cinnamon and turmeric daily. After just 3 weeks on this Mediterranean-style diet, the members of the study improved in not only depression symptoms but also anxiety and stress symptoms. To take it a step further, the researchers called the members of the study back 3 months later and most of them had kept to the diet and were still experiencing a reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms.


There have also been numerous studies linking physical activity with decreased depression symptoms. Including a study done in 2017 that focused on children and adolescents. You do not have to join a gym or pick up a sport to reap these benefits, it can be as simple as daily family walk around the neighborhood.



If you or a family member is experiencing depression symptoms, examine your diet and lifestyle. There may be ways to naturally combat these symptoms and give your brain a fighting chance. Reduce your intake of ultra-processed and fatty foods, and consume more vegetables, fruits, whole food sources of fat, and good quality proteins. Make sure you are getting some movement in daily.



Fill your plate has many wonderful resources for a healthy lifestyle. Check out the recipe section or the produce in season tab for more information.




Lai, J., Hiles, S., Bisquera, A., Hure, A., McEvoy, M., & Attia, J. (2014). A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99(1), 181-197


Li, Ye, Lv, Mei-Rong, Wei, Yan-Jin, Sun, Ling, Zhang, Ji-Xiang, Zhang, Huai-Guo, & Li, Bin. (2017). Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 253, 373-382


Korczak, D., Madigan, S., & Colasanto, M. (2017). Children’s Physical Activity and Depression: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 139(4), Pediatrics, Vol.139(4)


Francis, H., Stevenson, R., Chambers, J., Gupta, D., Newey, B., & Lim, C. (2019). A brief diet intervention can reduce symptoms of depression in young adults – A randomised controlled trial. PloS One, 14(10), E0222768.


Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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Coffee: More Than a Bean

By Alexandra Pettit, AZFB Communications Intern

Coffee, the wonderful magic in a cup that kicks off each day with a pick me up.  This cup of joe might have more added benefits than you think.

Biased on a recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, coffee may reduce the risk of illnesses like Parkinson’s, liver disease, type two diabetes, and may even decrease depression.  There has even been a recent study conducted by the American Journal of Kidney Disease, stating that coffee has been shown to decrease the risk of Chronic Kidney Disease.  The caffeine in coffee kicks off a small increase in one’s blood pressure and helps the blood vessels function better. It’s a healthy way to get the blood pumping quickly.

Note of Caution

With these benefits come some caution. As recommended by the National Kidney Foundation, the normal consumption of coffee should be 8oz. however, most Americans kick their day off with anywhere from 12 to 24 oz for one cup (Starbucks Size). This is where the problem lies. When you drink increased amounts of coffee to an elevation in cholesterol, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease can occur.  You shouldn’t be drinking two or more cups of coffee a day.

In the end, I feel that coffee has its own health benefits but just like anything else in moderation.  So tomorrow morning, when you’re pouring that cup of coffee, remember the added benefits disappear when you go for that third cup.



Does coffee offer health benefits?:

Coffee and Kidney Disease: Is it Safe?:

Coffee May Have Another Perk for Kidney Patients:

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Healthy Dips to Serve at Your Next Gathering

By Sarah Beleski a recent ASU Nutrition Student


We all love a good food spread at a party. In more recent years, I’ve found myself getting bored with the usual dips and snacks that I’m used to bringing or enjoying at a gathering. Guacamole, hummus, and taco dip are all delicious, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted to try something different.


I was also searching for healthier snack ideas that didn’t get pushed to the back corner of the table at a party… you know the ones I’m talking about. The “healthy” option that someone brought and now you feel obligated to put it on your plate but don’t actually want to eat it. My passion is to make healthy food that tastes good, looks amazing, and is full of flavor. I want people’s mindsets to change to the fact that they “get to” eat healthy food, rather than they “have to” eat it.


My brother-in-law has been a great inspiration for some of my cooking adventures because he always uses fresh ingredients. Everything he makes is delicious, healthy, and full of flavor! He made two dips recently that were nutrient-rich, used fresh ingredients, and were just really good! He gave me permission to share the recipes, so below are those two dips! Both would be great served with either pita bread or an assortment of fresh vegetables.


Eggplant Dip



  • 2 medium globe eggplants
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for broiling and serving)
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • salt to taste



  1. Set your oven for high broil
  2. Cut eggplant into thin sliced discs and place on a baking sheet
  3. Lightly brush both sides of eggplant discs with olive oil and place under the broiler
  4. Broil for 5-8 minutes, flipping halfway through (eggplant should be very soft when done)
  5. Place on cutting board and remove the skins from the eggplant (it’s okay if you can’t get it all off)
  6. Place the eggplant discs into a high-speed blender
  7. Add the extra-virgin olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and salt to the blender and pulse until smooth
  8. Transfer dip to a bowl and drizzle a little more oil on top (can be made 1 day ahead and kept in the refrigerator)






Roasted Red Pepper Dip



  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • ½ cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • Red chili flakes (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through
  3. Let walnuts cool and set aside
  4. Change oven temperature to high broil and make sure the top rack is ready for broiling
  5. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds, ribs, and stem
  6. Place peppers on a baking sheet and put it the broiler for 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through (It’s preferred if the skin is VERY charred because it is easier to remove the skin afterward)
  7. Once done, immediately place the peppers in a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap
  8. Let the peppers stay in the bowl for 10 minutes to steam and finish cooking
  9. Transfer them to a cutting board and peel the skins off (it’s okay if a little doesn’t come off)
  10. Transfer peppers to blender
  11. Add walnuts, breadcrumbs, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, red chili flakes, and salt
  12. Blend until smooth and transfer to a bowl
  13. Drizzle olive oil and extra walnuts on top for serving



Benefits of Eggplant:

  • Nutrient-dense food with low calories
  • Full of fiber, potassium, manganese, folate, protein, vitamin K, and vitamin C
  • High in antioxidants
  • May reduce risk of heart disease
  • May help reduce blood sugar levels (the high fiber content allows it to pass through the digestive tract intact)
  • May aid in weight loss
  • May have cancer-fighting benefits
  • Easy to add to your diet


Benefits of Bell Peppers:

  • Offers vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K1, potassium, folate, vitamin E, and vitamin A
  • Rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids
  • May aid in eye health
  • Protect the retina from oxidative damage
  • Lowers the risk of acquiring cataracts and macular degeneration
  • May help lower risk of visual impairment
  • Reduces risk of anemia



For more recipes head over to Fill Your Plate, we have hundreds to choose from!




Arnarson, A. (2019). Bell Peppers 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Healthline. Retrieved             from

Link, Rachael. (2017). 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Eggplants. Healthline. Retrieved from   

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It’s Soup Season!

By Danielle Sharkey a recent ASU Nutrition Student

It is winter in beautiful Arizona. Temperatures are dropping, skies are cloudy, and the furry clothes are on! It is finally winter and… soup season!  Winter is my favorite season in Arizona as it is a short period of time in the state that we can start incorporating soups, teas, and warm broths into our diets.  Below I have provided a simple broth recipe that I just made for this season.

I love having bone broth. There are so many health benefits to ingesting bone broth. It is the broth derived after slow cooking animal bones in water with spices and herbs. It is known to have gut healing properties, helps with bone and joint issues (or to just keep them strong), helps with hair skin and nail health, and so much more! This is because the collagen is derived from slow cooking the bones. I highly recommend giving this bone broth recipe a try!

Coconut Curry Tomato Soup (with Bone Broth)


Prep Time: 5 Mins                   Cook Time: 40 Mins                Total: 45 Mins


*I try to use organic ingredients as much as possible!



  • 5 cups of Local bone broth (if possible). I like to use the Epic brand from sprouts when I can not get local.
  • 1 cup canned full-fat (or low-fat) coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Carrot (chopped)
  • 1 Bell Pepper (your choice of color)
  • 2 Tbsp Minced garlic
  • 1 red onion (chopped)
  • 4 Large Tomatoes
  • Sea salt and Black Pepper (for taste)
  • 1 lime cut into quarters
  • Garnish: cilantro, hemp seeds, micro greens


  1. In a large pot add olive oil, onion, pepper, carrot, and some salt. Cook until veggies are soft. Stir every so often.
  2. Add curry and garlic and cook for about a minute. Cut up tomatoes and add to the pot. Cook for another minute.
  3. Add bone broth and simmer for about 10-15 mins. Make sure tomatoes are cooked.
  4. Remove from heat and blend in a high-speed blender until smooth.
  5. Return pot to stove (medium heat) and stir in the coconut milk.
  6. Add some lime juice (to taste).
  7. Season with salt and pepper to your preference!
  8. Serve to family and friends and enjoy! 😊


One of the local Arizona ranching family sells bone broth, check them out on Fill Your Plate.

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