How to eat a Mediterranean diet

By: Kenda Hettinger, a recent ASU Nutrition Student


The Mediterranean diet comes from the areas of Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and (southern) France. These are the countries that are along the north of the Mediterranean sea. Their climate/area is great for growing vegetables and fruits. Since they are located along the sea, fish is a staple in their diet. The Mediterranean diet began to gain popularity in the 1960s due to coronary heart disease deaths being low in that region.


What is included in the Mediterranean diet?


  • Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats
  • Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans, and eggs
  • Moderate portions of dairy products
  • Limited intake of red meat


What makes the Mediterranean diet so healthy?


  • It is plant-based, not meat-based. This doesn’t mean that they eat no meat, it just means that they eat more plants than meat.
  • It focuses on whole foods, not ultra-processed convenience foods. An example of a whole food would be a carrot and its ultra-processed counterpart would be veggie chips. It is always better to eat the whole carrot.
  • I switch the bad fats for heart-healthy fats. Think whole foods here again; seeds, nuts, avocado, and fish.


Tips for implementing the Mediterranean diet into your own diet:


  • Eat more vegetables and fruits. Think 7-10 servings a day, not our recommended 5 servings.
  • Experiment with vegetables for breakfast. Add peppers and onions (or other vegetables) to your eggs or try a sweet potato hash.
  • Snack on raw vegetables instead of looking for a “healthy” chip. Celery has a surprisingly salty taste.
  • Switch to whole grains (multigrain is not the same). Whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, unsweetened oats.
  • Eat fish twice a week. Avoid fried fish but opt for grilled instead.
  • Opt for lentils or beans as your protein source a few meals a week.
  • Go for healthier fats. Instead of spreading butter on your toast, tried an olive oil dip.
  • Reduce your red and processed meat consumption.




Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Unsplash

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Southwest Wedge Salad

By Kenda Hettinger, a recent ASU Nutrition student

I love it when healthy meets simple and fast. I also love anything with a southwestern flair. That is why this salad is #1 on my list. The dressing is made to taste, individualized by your preferences.







1 head of iceberg lettuce

2 bell peppers – any color

½ red onion

1 can black beans – rinsed

1 cup corn

2 tbsp avocado oil




  1. Chop or slice the onion and bell peppers.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Cook the onions and green peppers until they become soft.
  4. Add the beans and corn.
  5. Continue to heat until the beans and corn are heated through.
  6. Wash the iceberg lettuce. Cut the stem off and then cut it in 4 equal wedges.
  7. Top one wedge with a big scoop of the cooked vegetables.





½ cup plain greek yogurt

2-5 tsp hot sauce of your preference




  1. Start with ½ cup plain greek yogurt in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add a little hot sauce at a time (I actually used Buffalo sauce) until it meets your spice preference.
  3. This makes a very thick sauce or you can add water a little at a time until it has a consistency more like a salad dressing.
  4. Add to the top of your salad.

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Everything About Pumpkins

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Outreach Director

A bit of Arizona history says that before Phoenix was officially named, locals used to call the area Pumpkinville because of all the wild pumpkins that grew in and around what we now know as Phoenix, Arizona. Those pumpkins one might have seen growing wild were part of a mix of crops that Native Americans in the area grew along with squash, corn and even cotton back then.

Not as big as the pumpkin in the Guinness World Record book (see fun facts below), but Arizona’s heaviest pumpkin was 693 pounds.

In Arizona, we’re celebrating pumpkins on so many of our family farms. The 2017 Census of Agriculture, the USDA’s most recent, shows 241 acres grew pumpkins in our state from 114 farms. In the meantime, you can go to Fill Your Plate’s “Visit A Farm” and search for farms you and visit that will have pumpkins to pick this fall season!

Nationally, Illinois is the number one pumpkin grower with over 17,000 acres. Most of the acres (79%) were designated as processing pumpkins.  Looks like Pennsylvania is number two at almost 6,900 total acres of pumpkins.  New York is ranked third with 5,900 acres of pumpkins.

The Fun Facts about Pumpkins

  1. The name pumpkin comes from the Greek word ‘pepon,’ meaning large melon.
  2. Colors like red, yellow, and green and a variety of names like Hooligan, Cotton Candy, and Orange Smoothie are proof that more than 45 different varieties of pumpkins exist.
  3. The pumpkin is a member of the Curcubita family which includes squash and cucumbers. These plants are native to Central America and Mexico.
  4. Pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere and a common crop among native American tribes that farmed.
  5. Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October. While they vary in weight, a good-sized pumpkin is typically 10 to 13 pounds.
  6. And, giant pumpkins can be grown for competitions, with some weighing more than 1,000 pounds. According to, the largest pumpkin was 2624.6 pounds. But don’t hold your breath, these records are there to be broken.
  7. As a food, pumpkin can be baked, roasted, steamed or boiled. Pumpkin sour and roasted pumpkin seeds have become a favorite of the many food pumpkins can be made into.
  8. On average, each pumpkin contains approximately 500 seeds, and why we have plenty for roasting and salting from just one of our pumpkin.
  9. Pumpkins take between 90 to 120 days to grow. High in iron, they can be roasted to eat.
  10. And on the health-kick note, pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamins A and B. Pumpkins are also low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fiber. Additionally, they are a good source of protein. 100 grams of pumpkin produces around 26 calories of energy.
  11. The flowers that grow on the pumpkin vines are also edible.
  12. Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica.
  13. Morton, Illinois is the self-proclaimed pumpkin capital where you’ll find the home of the Libby corporation’s pumpkin industry. But it has every right since according to USDA’s latest Census of Agriculture identifies Illinois as the number one pumpkin grower with more than 17,000 acres, most designated for processing pumpkins.
  14. The original jack-o-lanterns were made with turnips and potatoes by the Irish. When they migrated to the United States the brought the tradition with them but as Americans, we discovered a pumpkin was as easy to carve. In England, they used large beets and lit them with embers to ward off evil spirits.
  15. In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  16. Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
  17. A Connecticut field variety is the traditional American pumpkin.
  18. Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
  19. Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats.
  20. Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
  21. More than 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin are produced each year in the United States, and yes, many of them are coming from Illinois. Other top producing states are Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.
  22. In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin.”
  23. Pumpkin pie is a sweet dessert that originates in North America and is traditionally eaten during harvest time and holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  24. Pumpkins are popular decorations during Halloween. A carved pumpkin illuminated by candles is known as a ‘jack-o-lantern’. The tradition is believed to have come from Ireland, where they used to carve faces into turnips, beet, and other root vegetables as part of the Gaelic festival of Samhain.
  25. Native Americans grew and ate pumpkins and their seeds long before the Pilgrims reached this continent. Pilgrims learned how to grow and prepare pumpkins from the Native Americans.
  26. Pumpkin was most likely served at the first Thanksgiving feast celebrated by the Pilgrims and the Native Americans in 1621.
  27. The earliest pumpkin pie made in America was quite different than the pumpkin pie we enjoy today. Pilgrims and early settlers made pumpkin pie by hollowing out a pumpkin, filling the shell with milk, honey and spices and baking it.


On Arizona Farm Bureau’s Fill Your Plate website we have lots of pumpkin recipes. A favorite might be Gertie Hickman’s pumpkin pie.

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Spinach and mashed potato stuffed mushrooms

by Kenda Hettinger, a recent  ASU nutrition  student

Before I first made these my husband told me that he didn’t know how he was going to like a mashed potato stuffed a mushroom. He has completely changed his mind, and this is not on a weekly rotation in our house. I buy the big portabella mushrooms and we use this as the main dish and eat with more vegetables.







4 portabella mushrooms with stems removed

3 cups prepared mashed potatoes

1 cup chopped baby spinach

½ cup grated cheese

2 tsp melted butter

½ cup breadcrumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix the mashed potatoes, baby spinach, and grated cheese in a bowl
  3. In a separate bowl mix the melted butter and breadcrumbs so that the breadcrumbs clump together.
  4. On a baking sheet, divide the mashed potato mixture evenly into the cup part of the mushroom and then top with the breadcrumbs.
  5. Cook for 15 minutes. Serve warm.



A few notes:

  • I will interchange kale and spinach depending on what I have on hand. I also use frozen if I do not have fresh.
  • These could easily be made into a party dish or appetizer by using a smaller whole mushroom instead of the portabella.
  • You could easily decrease the saturated fat in these by omitting the cheese altogether and even using a little bit of mashed potatoes to make the breadcrumbs sticky instead of butter. I have done both and they are still delicious.


I hope you enjoy these as much as my family!


Looking for more articles to help boost your healthy living? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some recipes that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the recipe section on our website.

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Happy Halloween

By Alexandra Pettit, AZFB Communications Intern

Spooky Halloween Treats

5 Tips for Haunting Your House this Halloween

How to Have a Healthier Halloween

Host a Frighteningly Fun Halloween Party

Halloween for Foodies! (If you dare!)

Where to get a Scare!

Fun Facts About Candy

10 Fun Facts about Candy Apples

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