9 Tips to get your kids to make healthy food choices

by Kenda Hettinger, an ASU nutrition communication student

Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cholesterol screening starting at the age of 9? Heart disease starts with the diet you consume as a child, and therefore they recommend a diet low in saturated fat starting at the age of one. With a 5-year-old myself, I know how difficult it can be to get them to eat healthy foods. I found this particularly true once she started school and started watching how other children eat.

  1. Have family mealtimes. According to an article published by the Cambridge University Press in 2017, frequent family mealtimes are associated with better diet quality for the children.


  1. Get the kids involved in the cooking or preparing process. With the younger kids, this could be letting them prepare their own plates. For the older kids, this could be letting them help chop vegetables or cook some of the food.


  1. Buy fun shaped food cutters. Younger kids love using food cutters to make their foods into fun shapes. Almost anything can be made into a fun shape, veggies, fruits, and sandwiches are common foods people cut into fun shapes.


  1. Find out what they like and keep serving it. My daughter prefers her vegetables raw. She loves to eat raw carrots and cucumbers but prefers her broccoli steamed. So I try to incorporate these items, cooked (or not cooked) to her liking in each dinner.


  1. Put variety in the diet. Try to make a point to try a new vegetable or other healthy food once a week. Always serve it in addition to healthy food you know they will eat.


  1. Keep mealtimes relaxed. Putting pressure on kids to try new things or to “eat their veggies,” can create food aversions. It is always better to be encouraging and accepting when they refuse food. We all have days when we do not feel like trying new things and kids are no exception.


  1. Lead by example. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2016, there are strong associations between the quality of a child’s diet with the quality of their parent’s diet. This could be due to what is available in their environment, shared meals, or modeling their parent’s food choices.


  1. Put healthy food choices in areas where they can reach. Keep washed and pre-cut fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods within reach for snacking. Children will naturally choose what is easy to grab.


  1. Be patient and trust the process. Over time your child will start to make healthy choices on their own.


When you teach healthy eating habits at home, they spill over to when they are at school, at friend’s houses, and into adulthood. Keep up the good work, parents!

Looking for more articles like this? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog.  Check out the Find a Farmers Market tab to find a farmers market near you.

More about the author: 

Kenda Hettinger is a student at Arizona State University working on her bachelors of science in nutrition. She is also an allergy nurse and mom to a sweet 5-year-old girl. She became passionate about nutrition after being diagnosed with GERD and learning how the food was affecting her condition. Her food philosophy is that your meals should be centered around your vegetables.



“kids eating” by Pakus Futuro Bloguero is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Berge, J., Truesdale, K., Sherwood, N., Mitchell, N., Heerman, W., Barkin, S., French, S. (2017). Beyond the dinner table: Who’s having breakfast, lunch and dinner family meals and which meals are associated with better diet quality and BMI in pre-school children? Public Health Nutrition, 20(18), 3275-3284.

Robson, Couch, Peugh, Glanz, Zhou, Sallis, & Saelens. (2016). Parent Diet Quality and Energy Intake Are Related to Child Diet Quality and Energy Intake. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(6), 984-990.



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What’s in Season This October?

By: Alexandra Pettit, AZFB Communications Intern

Happy October! The weather is starting to cool down and the holidays are right around the corner. It’s time to start now on your healthy eating habits before all the holiday madness begins.  Fill Your Plate has your back when it comes to the “in season” produce. We have some recipes that are amazing and use farm fresh “in season” produce. The recipes listed below are from Fill Your Plates searchable recipes.


Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad

Golden Beet & Pomegranate Salad


Tomato Basil Soup

Cantaloupe Basil Salsa

Basil Butter Sweet Potato Patties


Hamburger, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole

Pasta with Broccoli


Carrot Bread

Carrot Ginger Soup

Carrot, Leek & Turnip Sauté


Chopped Medjool Date Salad

Big Party Chicken Salad with Medjool Dates

Nutty Medjool Date Cheese Ball


Avocado, Black Bean, & Corn Salad

Baked Corn Dish

Cha Cha’s Chili Corn Bread

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Green Beans:

Brent’s Honey Bacon Green Bean Bundles

Corn and Green Bean Casserole

Balsamic Green Beans with Pine Nuts

Green Onions:

Asian Lettuce Wraps



Lemon Herb Couscous

Rosemary-Sage Steak

Rosemary Lemonade


Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Crunchy Apple Salad


Chilled Potato, Leek and Beet Soup

Creamy Potatoes


Potato Cheese Soup


Grandma Gertie’s Pumpkin Pie

Harvest Pumpkin Bars with Icing

Powerful Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Soup


Join the Party Salad

Abby’s Yummy Veggie Pizza


Chicken Picatta

Fennel Spinach Pasta

Homemade Spinach, Cheese, and Black Bean Enchiladas


Acorn Squash with Pomegranate Seeds

Sammy’s Sensational Squash

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes


Eggplant Parmesan

Homemade Salsa

Okra & Tomatoes Recipe


Turnips in Orange Sauce

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Spooky Halloween Treats

By Alexandra Pettit, AZFB Communications Intern

As a kid one of my favorite holidays was Halloween. Every year my family would decorate the entire house in spooky Halloween décor and plan our costumes weeks in advance. By far my favorite thing about Halloween time was the fun food that we would make. When I was younger each year my mom choose a “Creepy” Halloween meal, things like Hotdog fingers, eyeball spaghetti, and Jack o lantern pizza. For more fun and spooky Halloween treats check out the Fill Your Plate Pinterest page.

Hotdog Fingers

This recipe is quick and easy! All you will need is:

  • Hotdogs (cooked)
  • Buns
  • Ketchup
  • Knife to cut hotdogs


Cook hotdogs to your liking. Take your knife and cut a small nail shape out of the top to make a “Fingernail”. Use a knife to slice “Knuckles” into the hotdog. Place in a bun and add blood (Ketchup). Enjoy!


Eyeball Spaghetti

What you will need:

  • Cooked spaghetti
  • 1 pound ground hamburger
  • Green olives
  • 1 Diced onion
  • Garlic powder
  • Pasta sauce


Cook the spaghetti noodles with directions on the package. Set aside. Take the ground beef and mix in diced onion, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook meatballs in a pan until browned and cooked through. Mix pasta sauce and pasta in pan and warm. Add in the meatballs and top with olives to make eyeball.




Jack O Lantern Pizza

What you need:

  • Pizza Crust (Precooked)
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Cheese (Your Preference)
  • Pepperoni
  • Bell Peppers
  • Black Olives


Take your precooked pizza crust and cut it into the shape of a pumpkin. Add sauce and cheese. Then decorate your jack o lantern pizza to your liking. Enjoy!


Looking for more recipes? Check out the Fill Your Plate recipe section. If you liked this article, then you will love the Fill Your Plate blog.

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I Can’t Believe It’s Butter!: Making your own butter is easier than you think!

By: Cecelia Wilken a recent ASU Nutrition Student

I am a proprietor of making my own things. Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn, but I refuse to buy something that I can make myself. Especially if I can make it better. In today’s fast-paced, technologically forward society, you can buy almost anything with a click of a button. Food is mass-produced to meet the growing demands of our population and ultimately, the gap from farm to table continues to grow. Simple foods like butter are no longer needed to be churned by hand. Instead, you walk to the dairy aisle and pick out your favorite brand. And we are MISSING OUT! Butter is so easy to make yourself and so yummy.

One Thanksgiving we had family and friends over and as always, I went all out, even making my own hand-made butter infused with fresh herbs and garlic from the garden. Everyone raved over it, saying it was the best butter they had ever had. They asked me where I bought it, they simply had to go buy some for themselves. When I told them that I made the butter myself, I was met with confusion. Making the butter myself must have meant I melted down a stick of butter, mixed in some herbs and stuck it back in the fridge. When I explained myself, I couldn’t believe how shocked everyone was. They turned to my husband in disbelief, in which he responded with a “this is normal for her” shrug.

“Wait. You made your own butter? You mean, you churned it yourself?” They simply couldn’t understand how or why I would partake in such a seemingly old-fashioned practice. Then I explained how easy it was, how it was more cost-effective and not to mention how much yummier it was than store-bought. I’m pretty sure I converted half of our guests that day.

Making your own butter doesn’t require any fancy tools or tricks. It simply takes a bit of patience and a few ingredients.


What You’ll Need:

  • Heavy cream (at least a pint): The fresher the better! If you have a cow in your backyard (or your neighbors), lucky you! I buy my cream from a modern-day milkman service that supplies my local area with fresh dairy products weekly. But store-bought will also work just fine.
  • Stand-Mixer or similar. If you do not have a stand mixer, a hand mixer, food processor, blender or even a water bottle or mason jar will do the trick.
  • Spatula
  • Cheesecloth (optional, but helpful)
  • Optional: Salt, buttermilk & other add-ins**




  1. Gather all ingredients/supplies. Pour all the heavy cream into your stand mixer, start by turning on slow speed, and gradually speed it up as the cream begins to thicken.


If you are using blender bottle/mason jar/any sealable container, be prepared for an arm workout. Instead of mixing the cream, you just shake the container! Voila, butter.


  1. As the cream whips, occasionally stop to scrape the sides of the bowl. This will ensure even mixing. As some point, it will look a lot like whipped cream. This is what we want to see. Keep going!


Eventually, you will notice separation. You will begin to see large chunks of butter start floating to the surface of a milky liquid (This is buttermilk! Save this for later!)

  1. Place a cheesecloth over a large bowl and pour the butter/buttermilk mixtures into it. Squeeze and knead the butter in the cheesecloth to remove extra buttermilk.

No cheesecloth? No problem! Simple scoop the chunks of butter out with clean hands, and gently massage the liquid out of the butter under some cold water.

  1. At this point, your butter can be eaten, salted, flavored, or frozen! Now is the perfect time to add in fresh herbs, spices, citrus zest, salt, and pepper even cinnamon and sugar! I like to make a lot of butter all at once, separate it out and make many different kinds.

  1. To store you can either seal it in a mason jar, or Tupperware container. I personally like to wrap extras up in some parchment paper and place it in a freezer-safe bag for preservation.

Extra tips for success:

  • To make cultured butter combine 1 tablespoon of buttermilk to every pint of cream. Let it sit, covered for at least 8 hours at room temperature. As the mixture sits, bacteria break milk sugars down resulting in richer tasting butter. This will make your butter taste “butterier”.
  • The more liquid you get out of your butter the longer your butter will last. The longer you “knead” the butter, the more buttermilk you can pull from the solid.
  • To make “salted” butter simply knead in as much salt as desired. I prefer using flaked sea salt, but any salt will work. Additionally, adding salt will also help draw out more buttermilk out of your butter and acts as a preserver.
  • My 3-year-old also loves to help make butter! I’ll simply hand her a well-sealed mason jar filled with cream and let her shake it, roll it, and run around with it until butter forms. It’s a great way for her to feel like she is helping, and to let her expend some energy.


Some of my favorite flavor combinations:

  • Cinnamon, Vanilla, Honey (On homemade buttermilk biscuits? Bliss!)
  • Bacon & Sautéed Onion (Great on steaks and burgers)
  • Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil
  • Rosemary, Thyme & Sage
  • Roasted Garlic Herb (Wonderful on roasted chicken)
  • Orange Zest & Sage
  • Chipotle Lime (Amazing on grilled corn)
  • Honey Sriracha
  • Cognac Cranberry Orange

The possibilities are only limited to your imagination! Roll your flavored butter into logs, wrap in parchment paper, stick it in a bag and freeze it. The next time you need your flavored butter all you have to do is pull it out, cut off a sliver, and place it right onto cooked food or in the pan for easy seasoning.

Looking for more recipes? Check out the Fill Your Plate recipe section. If you liked this article, then you will love the Fill Your Plate blog.

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Healthy Pumpkin Waffles

By: Angela Bates a recent ASU Nutrition Student

When it’s autumn and you want something pumpkin spice for breakfast, but coffee isn’t it, try waffles! The crispy, fluffy cousin of pancakes, waffles have lovely little places for the butter to go and they can really fill you up when they’re made from good ingredients. Now, you never have to decide how to get your pumpkin spice fix or wonder if you can get it without crazy amounts of sugar. These waffles have it all with whole grains, can be dairy-free, and have very little sugar. Canned pumpkin lends some fiber and vitamin A to keep your eyes and stomach healthy.

A recommendation I would make is to get a nice nonstick waffle iron. It makes clean up so much easier and ensures a crisp crust on your waffles. I purchased mine for just $12 brand new and it makes consistently great waffles. Don’t forget, with waffles, there’s no flipping necessary! Easy and tasty.

With this recipe, feel free to substitute any dairy-free milk or buttermilk for the milk and coconut oil or vegetable butter in place of the butter. If substituting coconut oil, adjust to slightly less to reduce the oiliness in the finished waffles. The eggs are the only binder, so replacing them is not advisable. Make your own oat flour to save a lot of money. Just put the number of quick oats or old-fashioned oats needed in a blender or food processor and grind to a coarse powder. I love these with some maple syrup and butter!


2 1/4 cups oat flour (gluten-free if needed)

1 tablespoon baking powder (I like reduced sodium)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

3 eggs, room temperature

2/3 cup milk, room temperature

7 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly

1/2 cup packed canned pumpkin

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract



In a large bowl, whisk together oat flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Add the milk, oil, pumpkin, maple syrup, and vanilla.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk together until just combined.

Let the batter sit for at least 10 minutes so the oat flour can absorb the liquid.

When ready to make the waffles, preheat your waffle iron and give the batter another stir.

Scoop up the amount of batter needed for your waffle iron and place in the center of preheated iron.

Once crisp, remove waffle and place on a cooling rack so they don’t get soggy.

Looking for more recipes? Check out the Fill Your Plate recipe section. If you liked this article, then you will love the Fill Your Plate blog.

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