Eat Local. Eat Healthy. Eat Beans

By: Chef Brenda Wattles, RDN and The Idaho Bean Commission

According to the Idaho Bean Commission, the number one reason to eat Idaho’s beans is due to our rich volcanic soil and clean mountain water that produces the “highest quality, disease-free bean seed in the world.”  If that isn’t reason enough, Registered Dietitian and Chef Brenda Wattles adds five more reasons to eat our local, healthy food.

Beans are Versatile
There are ten varieties of beans grown in Idaho. All of which have their own flavor profile and texture that offer numerous ways to prepare them. Beans can be served as a main course or a side dish. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, beans can be considered as a main protein entree or a side vegetable. That is versatility at its best!

Beans are Easy to Prepare
Whether you are cooking them dried or straight from the can, they are easy! Dried takes a little longer, but the process is simple (*see instructions below). Once they are cooked and ready to go, add them to soups, hummus, salads, or even smoothies! Visit the Idaho Bean Commission’s website for recipes ideas.

Beans are Inexpensive
If you are looking to save money on your grocery bill, beans are a great cost-conscious alternative! Adding them to your menu as a main dish protein can cut your budget tremendously. Chef Brenda recommends making homemade black bean burgers, hearty vegetarian chili, or topping entrée size salads with beans as your main protein source.

Beans are a Protein and a Fiber-Rich Superfood
Most Americans are getting enough protein. However, they are often deficient by about 10 grams of fiber a day. By adding one cup of cooked beans to their diet, they will be adding about 12-16 grams of fiber a day. Additionally, beans are high in antioxidants.  They are also low in calories and saturated fat.

Beans are Excellent for Weight Loss
One cup of canned black beans is only 218 calories! Not only are they low in calories, they provide lots of bulk during digestion. So, they will keep you full longer! Adding beans to your diet is one of the best ways to get a variety of nutrients for such a small number of calories.

*How to Prepare Dried Beans
Rinse and drain one pound of dry beans. Discard damaged beans and any foreign material. Place in sauce pan and cover with 6 cups water. Either soak overnight or boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover, and soak for one to four hours. Discard soaking water. Replace with clean water and cook beans at a low boil for one to two hours, until beans are tender.

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Spring into action!

Spring Into Action

It’s finally here. I thought I would never see green plant life again after this winter. It’s actually exciting to see dirt and mud out my window. Yay for spring and all the changes it brings! Now for some spring cleanup. Looking around, I see stacks of “stuff” in my office and my house, begging to be put away. My pantry appears to be stocked with cold weather food staples, and I have yet to find my good walking shoes.

So I made a little list for you and for me…

What ideas do you have to spring into action and clear the winter clutter out of your life?

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Hunger Wars?

Fruits and Veggies

Having small wars when you try to get fruits and veggies into your family’s meals? It can be a buzz kill for kids to see half their plate covered in veggies when they’ve been eyeing the bread… Don’t give up! There are many ways to supplement your family’s diet with fruits and veggies – without bringing down the house. Here are some tips to make it more fun!

Read this month’s Success Story – The Hunger Games, Family Edition
Get the family involved – go to the local Farmers Market; have family members choose a new veggie each week
Keep fruits/veggies on hand and in supply, washed and ready to eat
Make low-calorie dips and spreads from yogurts, seasonings, and herbs. It makes veggies more fun!
Put fruits and veggies in a smoothie or frosty treat
Add veggies to mashed potatoes or soups

Share tips to make fruits and/or veggies a fun and welcomed part of your family’s day. Making a comment to this post will automatically enter you into a drawing for WaterPark Tickets!

Enter the WaterPark Contest!

How to play: Make sure you are registered and logged in to If you are not already registered, go to the column on the right. Click on “register” to get started. NOTE: IDOC employees are not able to register for blogs.

IDOC employees may email their comments to the Blog Administrator. Their comments will be added to Hunger Wars by the Administrator; they will also be entered into the contest.

Make a comment on this blog post by 10:00 a.m. on 6/25/15 by answering the question, “What tips do you have to make fruits and veggies a fun and welcomed part of your family’s day?”… You must be a State of Idaho employee to win tickets. Winners will be posted on Health Matters Health Tools webpage on 6/26/15.

This is a great way to get ideas and to share what works. Join in the conversation. You could be a winner!

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Healthy Holidays

It happens so quickly… I was in the grocery store this weekend; my mind was full of healthy holiday intentions. Then it happened. I saw the peppermint bark cheesecake. I smelled the bakery… I rounded the aisle and found myself faced with the special holiday cheeses, spreads, and crackers. It was cruel. I took a deep breath and steered my cart toward dairy….the eggnog popped up from out of nowhere, along with the tasty coffee creamers, and on and on… the entire shopping trip was a challenge!!!

How do you keeping your holiday eating on a healthy track? Enter the drawing to win two free tickets to Wahooz Family Fun Zone in Meridian.

Here’s how to play…

  • Make sure you are registered and logged in to  on this blog, if you are not already a registered user, please do so in the right hand column by clicking on the “register” button
  • Make a comment on this blog post providing a copy of one of your favorite healthy holiday recipes including ingredients and instructions…or create a link to it.
  • The winner of the two free tickets will be drawn on Thursday, 12/6/12 at 11:30 a.m., MT.

Let’s see if we can share some healthy recipes with each other!

Remember – for tips on managing your nutrition, check out Health Tools 

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Clean Eating – what’s it all about?

A co-worker came in last week all excited about ‘clean eating’ and asked if I was into it. I said ‘of course’ I always wash my food and clean up my dishes. She grimaced at me. So, I did some homework and here’s what I found. Clean eating is kind of about going back to the basics with food. Clean eating asks you to reduce the processed foods you take in and prepare and eat them in as natural or as whole a state as possible…eat that potato as a potato, not as a French fry with sauce. It takes me back to growing up with a big garden and cooking our own food vs. eating out of a box, restaurant, or microwave. Clean eating is common sense. That being said, I decided this weekend to track things I eat that are more processed than whole. I was amazed! My Dorito chips were virtually unrecognizable as corn, the broccoli was screaming to get out from under the mushroom soup and crunchy fried onion rings, I couldn’t find anything whole or natural about the hot dog, and I guess the peach cobbler was just wrong from every perspective. My point? Stop and think about what you eat. When you can, eat foods that are in their whole or natural state. Skip the sauces, sugars, creams, salts, crunchies, and all the add ons we use to spice things up. Your body will appreciate you! Check this month’s Featured Recipe on Health Matters…it’s pretty ‘clean’. Do you have a favorite recipe you can share that leaves most of the ingredients whole or natural?

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Snack Attack!

Mindless Eating

It happens every hour. No matter what I’m doing, I somehow think it would all go better if I have food in my hand. Doesn’t everything go better with a snack? That flawed thinking has put extra pounds on my frame this year. (The more I think about that sad fact, the more I want another snack…) This may be a case of Emotional Eating (source: Blue Cross of Idaho)! Mindless snacking can use up 1/3 to 1/2 our daily calorie allowance. Zowie! To help you control the Snack Attack, be sure you understand what’s in that ‘harmless’ food item you are chomping on at 2:30 in the afternoon; read the Label Quick Guide (source: Blue Cross of Idaho). Another helpful tool is the Snack Tracker. The Snack Tracker gives you space to not only track what you are snacking on, but also the time of day, what you are doing, and your hunger level. I found some very interesting personal trends when I used the tool. One Day of Beverages is another eye opener. How can you manage your snack attack? I try to do something to break the snack attack impulse when I feel it coming on. My favorite is to simply stand up and walk around. Another is to thumb through a good magazine or pick up a book. What have you found works for you to chase away the Snack Attack? Please share!

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