Treat yourself to some Dark Chocolate

By Jacob Gerdes, Arizona State Nutrition Communications Student.

 Cravings for a sweet treat may nag at us occasionally and normally we feel the need to restrict ourselves because of the perceived health implications sugary treats may have. We must take back control and allow ourselves to responsibly indulge, and if you choose to indulge in dark chocolate then you are actually benefiting your health more than you may be aware.


According to an article published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, there is extensive evidence that cocoa-rich dark chocolate has an abundant amount of flavonoids which are pigments found within the cocoa plant that act as a potent anti-oxidant providing protection from cardiovascular disease. Another article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition list that a short-term benefit of dark chocolate is a significant increase in insulin sensitivity helping normalize blood sugar levels.

Nitric Oxide is a compound the body produces to dilate the blood vessels causing an increase in circulation. At one point in time, many researchers argued whether or not the evidence supporting the increase in the bio-availability of Nitric Oxide from dark chocolate was significant, however, the association is now relatively solidified.

Recently, researchers out of Kingston University discovered a new opportunity for athletes to utilize dark chocolate for their competition. The study found that due to the effect on nitric oxide in the body, blood vessels dilate which decreases oxygen consumption allowing endurance athletes to work for longer periods. This discovery is significant for any cyclist or runners trying to increase their performance.

Endurance athletes are not the only individuals that will benefit from this rich treat. Everyone could use some dark chocolate in their lives.

When looking for dark chocolate to purchase, think low sugar, low fat, and the higher cocoa content the better. The taste preference is similar to coffee, some like it dark and some prefer some cream and sugar; just know that darker is better.  Once you have made your choice, treat yourself to the recommended serving on the package or a little more if you’re really feeling the cravings! You can bake with it, melt it over oatmeal, or eat it by itself. The choice is yours!

Now go out and get yourself a guilt free treat. Enjoy dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth while bettering your health!


Another Dark Chocolate Article from Fill Your Plate! 


  1. Galleano M, Oteiza PI, Fraga CG. Cocoa, chocolate, and cardiovascular disease. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. Published December 1, 2009; 54(6): 483–490. Accessed April 24, 2016. URL:


  1. Grassi D, Lippi C, Necozione S, Desideri G, Ferri C. Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure in healthy persons. Am J Clin Nutr. Published March 2005; 81(3):611-614. Accessed April 24, 2016. URL:


  1. Kingston University. Eating dark chocolate as a daily snack could help boost athletic performance. ScienceDaily Website. Published April 19, 2016. Accessed April 24, 2016. URL:



Posted in Dairy, Food, Food Facts, Health Tips, Healthy Eating | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fill Your Plate Loves Healthy Kids

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Communication Director

Since 2007, when Arizona Farm Bureau launched Fill Your Plate, we focused our efforts on helping improve Arizona families’ nutritional needs. We’ve especially focused our content on helping parents help their children eat healthy and fun meals.


And, we’re still at it. We’re hoping Fill Your Plate mom and dads can create fun, healthy and tasty meals for their family by using our recipes, reading our blog and searching for food you can purchase from our local farmers and ranchers.

Here’s a starter list of our kid-oriented blog articles:

  1. Are Your Kids Eating Right?
  2. Hey Kids, What’s Cooking
  3. 6 Ways to Get Kids to Eat More Veggies
  4. How to Help Kids Eat Healthy this Summer
  5. Get Your Kids to Move!
  6. 6 Ag-related Summertime Boredom Busters for Kids
  7. Feed your Mind! Great Books for Kids
  8. The Cost of Raising Kids

Want to source for more articles about children and nutrition? When in the Fill Your Plate Blog, look for the “Search” bar in the upper left corner and type in either “kids” or “children” to see what articles come up. We’ll continue with this topic as long as we host informational and interesting articles on Fill Your Plate. Email us at if you have a specific topic or article idea you’d like us to research and write about.


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

Culinary Creepy-Crawlies

Insects have been eaten in countries across the globe for centuries. The United States, however isn’t known for being one of those places. Ask your friends or family, and most of them will tell you they have never eaten a bug, and never will. But what if I told you that eating insects could be a norm in the not so distant future?

Think about it: Insects pack a protein punch, can be flavored just like chips, have a satisfying crunch, and can be ground down into flour, among many other options. The only negative is the perception we have that bugs are ‘icky.’

Little girl with cricket in a jar

In many countries already though, insects are sold in the open market as street food, and eaten in-home as snacks. There are even places in the world where insects are farmed for human consumption; and rightfully so.

Some typical insects that are eaten all around the world include beetles, ants, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, termites, and worms. Remember in science class when we learned the difference between insects and arachnids? Well people eat ‘non-bugs’ such as spiders and scorpions, too.

Did you know that according to Iowa State, one cricket has 12.9 grams of protein, and 75.8 milligrams of calcium? Grasshoppers have 20.6 grams of protein and 35.2 milligrams of calcium. These little critters pack a powerful punch, certainly of protein.

Now, I bet you’re wondering how one would consume these creepy crawlies. Grabbing a handful of crickets and munching on them probably doesn’t sound that appetizing; but it can be. If you search the internet, you will find that you can purchase snack bags of your favorite insect. Just like you can buy personalized sizes of popular potato chips, you can buy a little bag of barbeque flavored crickets to satisfy your cravings. And BBQ isn’t the only flavor out there. If you can crave it, there is a little bag of bugs out there calling your name.

If you don’t want to eat them by the handful, there are all kinds of other crafty ways to get the nutrition insects have to offer.

  • Instead of croutons, sprinkle some crickets, worms, or ants over your salad.
  • Use cricket flour as a substitute for normal flour if you are looking for something with more protein, or are cooking for someone with food allergies.
  • Drop some mealworms into coleslaw to give it more texture.
  • When making chocolate chip cookies, sprinkle mealworms or crickets across the top of the cookies before baking.

Now it’s your turn. Pick up a bag of edible bugs and have fun trying them out in all kinds of different recipes. Let us know what you create.

But, no fear, beef, chicken and pork will continue to reign supreme with us. And, you can find the best home-gown recipes right here on Fill Your Plate to satisfy the traditional protein options Americans will continue to love.


Posted in Food, Food Facts, Food Production, Grocery, Health Tips, Healthy Eating | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Food Industry: Helping us Ensure Food Safety

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

Food safety is important and will always be important. Recently, Walmart has started providing food safety advice on some of their bags. The bags feature the title ‘Food Safety,’ and show the temperatures that different meats should be cooked at to ensure they are safe to eat. The bags also show a few tips like ‘Don’t cross contaminate,’ and ‘be clean, be healthy.’


Arizona Farm Bureau has been advocating for food safety for quite some time. So, we’re glad to see the food industry and specifically the grocery stores help with this process. Here is a list of all the blog we’ve already published about the topic.

Stay connected with us on Fill Your Plate as we regularly cover food safety, nutrition and fun recipes. Our blog publishes stories three times a week and most stories are a quick read with valuable information on food and nutrition.


Posted in Cooking, Food, Food Facts, Food Safety, In the Kitchen | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fun Summer Snacks

By Laura Slatalla, ASU Nutrition Student

Having the kids home during the summer means they’ll be playing hard and get extra hungry, so it’s a great time to try some new and exciting snacks! Break out of the crackers or cookies and try out some high fiber and protein snacks or fruity treats.

Little boy pulling up carrot from a cup, isolated over white

Avocado Toast

Spread some avocado on whole wheat toast and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese or add an egg! It’s super filling and tasty. The whole wheat has fiber, avocado has healthy fat, and cheese or an egg will have some protein.

No Bake Granola Bars


2 ½ cups puffed brown rice cereal

2 cups instant oats

½ cup raisins or other dried fruit

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup honey

½ cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Put cereal, oats, and raisins in a bowl
  2. Boil brown sugar and honey in a small pan
  3. Stir in peanut butter, then vanilla
  4. Mix with cereal, oats, and raisins
  5. Press into a 9 x 13 inch pan
  6. Cool and cut into bars

Ants on a Log

I’m sure most of us remember this classic from childhood! It’s fun and easy. Wash some celery in cold water to freshen it up. Shake it dry and cut into 3 or 4 inch pieces. Add a little peanut butter and top with raisins. The kids can help make this one!

Fruit Salad

Slice up some of your favorite fruits and keep them refrigerated for a quick snack. I like to have a base fruit, like pineapple or watermelon, and add berries, grapes, or apples. Adding a little honey and lemon will keep the apples from browning and make it a little more interesting. Try adding some fresh mint too!

Homemade Popsicles

These can be made from juice or leftover smoothie. You can find molds at the supermarket, even some cute shapes if you look! They make a great treat that are lower in fat than an ice-cream cone.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment