Part Two: Let’s Talk About Healthier, Natural Sweeteners

By Sarah Hunt, AZFB Communications Intern




Stevia does come from a plant, but it’s sweetness can cause cravings for sugar. Some brands like Truvia are processed with other ingredients that can cause a not-so-tasty aftertaste.


Recipes: Chocolate Almond Butter Bites , Apple Pie Overnight Oats , Churro Latte

Articles by nutritionists: Wait, Is Stevia Actually a Healthier Alternative to Sugar?



Although agave is a more natural alternative, free of chemicals, it still has a high sugar content. If you like the flavor of agave, replace your refined sugar with it. Otherwise, stick to sweeteners like monk fruit if you’re looking to avoid sugar and lose weight.


Articles by nutritionists: Wait, Is Stevia Actually a Healthier Alternative to Sugar?

When It Comes to Healthy Sweeteners, Which Is Better: Agave or Honey?

Agave: Sticky Facts About the Natural Sweetener



Did you know cinnamon is anti-inflammatory, boosts metabolism, maintains stable blood sugar levels, and has brain health benefits? Read more below in the nutrition articles!


Recipes: Tabitha Brown’s Chocolate Banana Cinnamon Toast Is What I Want To Eat for Breakfast Every Day

This Doctor-Approved Cinnamon Toast Crunch Smoothie Takes You Back to Your Childhood

5 Cinnamon Drinks That Work As a Delicious Way to Combat Inflammation

What to Put in Your Oatmeal If You Can’t Do Another Day of Raisins and Cinnamon Without Falling Asleep Into Your Bowl

‘I’m an Herbalist, and This Warming Cinnamon Tea Recipe Is Perfect for a Good Night’s Sleep’

This Delicious Gluten-Free Cinnamon Roll Melts in Your Mouth

Articles by nutritionists: Cinnamon Is the Seasonal Spice That’s Good for Your Brain—Here Are 7 Unexpected Ways To Cook With It

This Spicy Seasonal Flavor May Increase Your Metabolism



Other alternative sweeteners:  Why Coconut Sugar Is the Next Agave

Medjool Date Syrup


For more details on these and other natural sweeteners, check out this article:

Your Ultimate Guide to Sugar Substitutes and Natural Sweeteners


Find more healthy recipes to use your natural sweeteners in on Fill Your Plate’s recipe database!

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The Ultimate Summer To-Do List: 50 Activities for Friends and Family

By Sarah Hunt, AZFB Communications Intern



Summer is a close second to spring for me when it comes to favorite seasons. It may have something to do with being raised in Arizona and not knowing much different when it comes to weather.

Regardless, I love spending time outside and in the water in the summer, usually at a lake or beach. So here are my top 50 activities to do with friends and family in the summer, with an emphasis on water activities:


  1. Swim at a nearby lake
  2. Rent jet ski’s and take them to the lake
  3. Rent a paddleboard and paddle down to the Salt River or at a lake
  4. Have a picnic on the lake’s beach
  5. Go tubing down the Salt River
  6. Rent an RV and camp out by the lake
  7. Go camping
  8. Go feed the ducks at the pond by the Arizona Farm Bureau’s office in Gilbert
  9. Do water games: water balloon fight, Slip ‘N Slide, sprinklers, etc.
  10. Swim in a pool
  11. Make popsicles
  12. Make homemade ice cream
  13. Take a road trip to a beach
  14. Try boogie boarding at the beach
  15. Go fishing off the ocean pier
  16. Fly a kite at the beach
  17. Learn to surf
  18. Go deep sea fishing
  19. Try parasailing behind a boat
  20. Try kitesurfing
  21. Try sailboarding
  22. Read a new book
  23. Read an old favorite book
  24. Set up and enjoy a hammock
  25. Make a summer playlist
  26. Buy a Fourth of July t-shirt from Old Navy (my family used to do this every year)
  27. Make a new recipe for the grill
  28. Learn how to carve a watermelon jack-o’-lantern or fruit basket
  29. Learn to make a fun summer drink (non-alcoholic or alcoholic). As kids, my friends and I loved to drink homemade virgin pina coladas!
  30. Try a new recipe for a side dish
  31. Decorate the house for the Fourth of July
  32. Go back to school clothing shopping with your kids
  33. Go back to school supply shopping with your kids
  34. Make a fort (try this awesome idea: use a king sized sheet on a queen sized bed (or queen size on a full bed, etc). Tape the box fan to the sheet so it has a sheet border on the side of the fan by the edge of the bed and to the top, leaving the side of the sheet at the end of the bed not taped down like the other 3 sides of the sheet, so you can crawl inside!)
  35. Do a DIY project
  36. Do some home improvement
  37. Plant a flower garden
  38. Plant a vegetable garden
  39. Plant a potted herb garden in your house
  40. Buy a succulent or house plant
  41. Learn how to make pies and/or cobbler! Cherry, blueberry, peach, raspberry, etc. It also makes the perfect Fourth of July dessert served a la mode.
  42. Learn how to make jam
  43. Be the host for a barbeque
  44. Attend a film festival
  45. Make smores
  46. Throw a bonfire party
  47. Watch your favorite movies about summer
  48. Find a new podcast to listen to
  49. Discover some new musicians and songs that you like
  50. Go to an art museum


Find more fun activities on Fill Your Plate’s blog!

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Let’s Talk About Heathier, Natural Sweeteners

By Sarah Hunt, AZFB Communications Intern



Let’s face it, you just can’t make a dessert taste good without a little sugar, no matter how healthy the ingredients are. But you CAN use sweeteners that are natural and a lot more healthy for your body than processed white sugar.

There are surprisingly a good amount of options when it comes to these natural sweeteners. There’s honey, stevia, monk fruit (What is that? You may ask. Right? I had no idea what it was at first either), dark chocolate chips with low sugar content, agave, cinnamon or nutmeg, date syrup, and more.

Today we’re going over why some of these sweeteners are better for you than refined sugar and giving you some yummy dessert recipes to make. This way you can still have your cake and eat it too, with zero guilt!


Monk Fruit

Monk fruit, in my opinion, is the crown jewel of natural sweeteners. If you’re buying the Monk Fruit In The Raw brand (find it here on Amazon for the best deal), one serving size is equal to one teaspoon. In that one teaspoon, there is ZERO sugar, fat, or sodium. It has 4 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of erythritol. Erythritol is a natural sweetener from corn that is a substitute for sugar. It is 200 times more sweet than sugar, so the recommended ratio to substitute it for sugar and use it in baking is about 1/3 cup of monk fruit for every cup of sugar.

Recipes: Keto Chocolate Cake , Keto Pumpkin Pancakes

Articles by nutritionists: The Plus Factor: and Why There’s Monk Fruit in Our Logo

When It Comes to Alt-Sweeteners, Monk Fruit Is Officially the New Stevia



Honey does have some vitamins that granulated sugar can’t give you, but it definitely still has a lot of sugar in it. If you think substituting this for sugar in exact measurements is better, you’re wrong. I was surprised when I found this out too! The article below about using honey in coffee explains the pros and cons of using honey as a sweetener.

Recipes: Brent’s Honey Bacon Green Bean Bundles , Citrus Honey Green Tea

Articles by nutritionists: 6 Manuka Honey Benefits That Prove It’s Worth the Buzz

True or False: Using Honey in Coffee Instead of Sugar Is an Easy Healthy Hack


Low Sugar Dark Chocolate Chips

There are a few brands that make these, my favorites are Lily’s, Choc Zero, and Enjoy Life. Lily’s and Choc Zero are very similar, so here’s the breakdown: Lily’s serving size is 60 chips, with less than one gram of sugar and three grams of erythritol. They use stevia extract as their sweetener. It has zero sodium, and eight grams of carbohydrates. Choc Zero uses monk fruit as its sweetener. It’s serving size is also 60 chips with one gram of sugar. These are 70 calories per serving, 10 more than Lily’s. It has 6 grams of carbohydrates (two less than Lily’s) and 15 grams of sodium.

Deciding on which chips are for you just depends on your dietary needs. I have low blood pressure so I need more sodium in my diet than others, so I would opt for the Choc Zero (and I personally think Choc Zero tastes better too 😉). Enjoy Life chocolate chips does have the same amount of sugar as regular chocolate chips, but the benefit of this brand is that it is dairy free, soy free, gluten free, and Kosher. One of my friends who has dairy and gluten sensitivities introduced me to these, so these are the perfect alternative to normal chocolate chips if you have these dietary issues.

Recipes: Keto Chocolate Hazelnut Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie , Keto Friendly Peanut Butter Cup Cookies


One of the best places to find recipes is the In The Raw brand’s recipe database, when you can filter recipes based on what kind of natural sweetener you want to use! Find it here.


Other Low Sugar Dessert Recipes: 7 Low-Sugar Mexican Desserts Bakers of Any Level Can Master

11 Gluten-Free Breakfast Ideas That Keep Baked Goods on the Menu (But Won’t Spike Your Blood Sugar)


As always, find more healthy and delicious recipes on Fill Your Plate’s recipe database! Look out for part two of this article, coming out soon!


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Beets Give You Needed Nutrients

By Julie Murphree, Director of Outreach and Sarah Hunt, Communications Intern



Beets grow well in Arizona! When you go to an Arizona farmers market, you’ll most likely come across a rainbow of beet varieties when they’re in season.

Our nutritionists want to showcase the power of beets for us in Why You Should Add Beets To Your Shopping List & How To Cook With Them. Click the link to read all about the health benefits of beets, as well as some recipe ideas to use them in.

Where do you get them farm fresh? These farms sell beets, and here’s our list of farmers markets for your convenience. Find more recipes to use beets in on Fill Your Plate’s recipe database!

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Posted in Ag Facts, Arizona, Arizona farmers and ranchers, Arizona Food and Farm Events, AZ Winter Vegetables, Cooking, Diet Tips, Farmer's Markets, Fill Your Plate, Focus on Agriculture, Food, Food Facts, Fun Food Facts, Gardening, Grocery, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, In Season, In the Kitchen, In the News, Produce, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fill Your Plate’s Collection of Mediterranean Diet Articles

By Sarah Hunt, AZFB Communications Intern



What do you know about the Mediterranean Diet? Before I discovered Fill Your Plate, I had never heard of it! When I heard Mediterranean, I instantly thought, Olive Garden. You know, those amazing white flour breadsticks and fettuccine alfredo pasta dish with loads of butter, cheese, and cream? I was thinking, boy this will be the best tasting diet ever!

Unfortunately, it does not actually include fettucine alfredo or white flour breadsticks. But in my opinion, the Med diet really is the best tasting diet! While it does include pasta and Italian foods, it also includes cuisines from other countries along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The main foods it includes are listed below.

“With the Med Diet, the basis of every meal is vegetables! A good rule of thumb is that vegetables should fill half of your plate. The Med Diet also includes whole grains (including whole grain breads), healthy fats, legumes, olive oil, nuts, fruits, lean protein, eggs, seafood, low fat dairy, and red wine! These are the things that you can eat every single day.

Did I lose some of you when you realized that bacon and steak weren’t on that list? Well guess what, this diet doesn’t exclude those things it just encourages you to not overindulge. That means you can still enjoy your favorite red meats a couple times a month!” – Everything You Need to Know About the Mediterranean Diet

As Evens states in this article, the Med diet isn’t actually a diet; it’s a lifestyle. People have eaten according to these guidelines for centuries. It’s proven to help with many health aspects.

“The research supporting the Med Diet is extensive. The Mayo Clinic says that research has shown that this diet reduces the LDL (the bad cholesterol) build up in arteries as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular caused mortality. The Med Diet has also been linked to reduced risks of certain cancers, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. The Mediterranean Diet has also proven to have a positive impact on weight and BMI, meaning that it can help you lose weight,” Evens said.

So what are you waiting for? Educate yourself by reading up on the Med diet using the articles below, and we even have a grocery list for you at the end of this article to give your Med diet a successful start!


Med Diet Articles:


Shift to the Med Diet May Help Fight Depression

Growing the Med Diet in the Desert

How to eat a Mediterranean diet

Fill Your Plate with the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet and Olive Oil: A Buying Guide

Enjoy Arizona Olive Oil with Your Mediterranean Diet!

The Mediterranean Diet: Heart Healthy and Delicious

Arizona Agriculture Grows the Mediterranean Diet

University of Arizona Nutrition Mediterranean Diet Conference

Learn More About The Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet (with an Arizona Twist!)

The Mediterranean Diet: Does it Work?

It’s Not Me, It’s You: Breaking Up with Diet Culture

7 Ways to “Spice” up your Mediterranean Cooking


Med Lifestyle Grocery List:

  • olive oil
  • nuts and seeds (low sodium versions if available)
  • beans
  • avocados
  • Any vegetables you like that are in season
  • Red wine (if you drink alcohol)


Fishes with “good fats” and Omega-3’s:

  • albacore tuna
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • herring
  • lake trout
  • sardines


Lean proteins for daily consumption include:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Seafood


Other meat that you can eat sparingly:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Duck



  • Greek yogurt
  • Feta
  • Chevre
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Ricotta
  • Alternate using dairy milk and almond/soy milk


Whole grains:

  • Oats
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole grains pasta
  • Dave’s Killer Bread (which is whole grain)


  • Whole grains are grains that are eaten in their original whole state. This does not include white rice or breads made from white flour, as those are processed and refined (Evens). The most commonly consumed ones are oats and brown rice.
  • If you’re looking for pasta, look at the nutrition facts on the box. Make sure any grains listed as ingredients specifically say, “whole grains”. It does not have to be made of wheat; it can be barley, buckwheat, bulgar, farro, millet, polenta, couscous, etc.


Find more recipes for the Mediterranean lifestyle by searching by ingredient on Fill Your Plate’s recipe database here!

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