Nighttime Snacks that Won’t Keep you Awake

There’s nothing wrong with having a post-dinner, pre-bedtime snack, especially if you’re grazing (eating five or more times per day). Choosing the right snack choices can help you avoid tummy troubles, and some can even help you sleep better.

nighttime snacks

Avoid the “Troublesome Trinity”

If you’ll be eating or drinking less than four hours before you go to bed, avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine, hot spices or too much sugar. These can elevate your metabolism, making it harder to fall asleep. In addition to these three troublemakers, stay away from greasy, heavy proteins that take longer to digest than many carbs and healthy fats.

“BRAT” is an easy acronym to help you remember the types of mild foods you want to eat when you’re ill, or when you don’t want to be kept up all night. Think Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast.

Try Some Oatmeal

Oatmeal is mild, filling and easily digestible. In addition to being a good late-night snack, it also provides benefits such as dietary fiber. Keep some natural oatmeal around, rather than the processed, flavored packets that contains lots of sugar. You can sweeten it with a bit of honey or raisins.

Bananas are Easy

By itself or in a smoothie, a banana is a quick-digesting, nutritious, mild snack that fills you up without filling you out. Have a few slices on a piece of toast with some nut butter for a heartier nighttime snack.

Popcorn is a Good Choice

Another favorite snack, popcorn is light, low in calories and satisfies your craving for something crunchy (and maybe a little salty). Avoid flavored popcorns that might be too spicy or include too many artificial colors, unhealthy fats and preservatives. It’s tough to control yourself around a big bowl of popcorn.

Even though it’s only 100 calories or so, downing a whole bag of microwave popcorn close to bedtime can leave you feeling too full. Put half of your serving aside for later by sealing it in a plastic sandwich bag. Eat your half-serving slowly with a low-cal, low-sugar, healthy drink.

Make a Sandwich Wrap

For an easy-to-digest evening snack, fill a wrap with your favorite veggies and add a piece of lean meat (like turkey or chicken breast or ham), and/or a sprinkle of cheese. Flatout flatbreads, for example, are low in calories compared to a single slice of whole grain bread (up to 150 calories per slice or more!), and come in regular or Protein UP! choices.

Nut Butter Toast

Isn’t it great when two mild-mannered foods pair up to create a favorite snack? Spread just a bit of creamy nut butter on a whole grain bread (you don’t have to toast it), and eat it in small bites, rather than gulping it down. The longer you take to eat your foods, the less likely you’ll be to start looking for a second helping.

Cookies and Milk

Looks like mom was right. A healthy, low-fat, low-sugar cookie choice with some milk (it doesn’t have to be low-fat) can help you top off your tummy before going to bed without keeping you up later. Drinking full-fat milk can decrease sugar cravings later.

Yogurt Cups Work

Creamy, protein rich yogurt is more filling than sugary snacks, and also provides helpful probiotics that improve gut health and aid in digestion. Add just a few nuts for crunch.

Try Cheese Combos

Cheese is a good source of protein that isn’t as heavy as meats, fish and fowl. Combine some cheese slices or cubes with your favorite fruit or veggies, top some crackers with cheese, or have some cottage cheese with berries. String cheese is a good choice, and you don’t need to pair it with anything.

Hard Boiled Egg

The humble egg is one of nature’s best-kept secrets. It’s packed with protein, contains healthy fats, tastes great and the cholesterol it contains doesn’t contribute to heart disease and previously thought.

The pros and cons of juicing

If you’re thinking of buying a juicer or starting a weight loss program based on drinking your daily calories, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of this growing nutrition trend.

What could be wrong with drinking a glass of fresh juice squeezed from healthy fruits and vegetables? Not much, if you do it correctly and in moderation, but you’ll still want to make sure you follow some common-sense preparation and caloric guidelines when you juice.


Lots of Vitamins and Minerals

A single glass of juice can pack the vitamins and minerals from several pieces of fruit and vegetable into one drink. People who tend to get most of their calories from meat, potatoes, bread, pasta and carbs often don’t get enough fruits and veggies and their micronutrients, and juicing can help address that problem.

Loss of Dietary Fiber

When you use a good juicer, you remove much of the dietary fiber that comes from plants. Dietary fiber is very important to good health. Eating fruit without fiber might also negatively affect the way your body absorbs the sugars in the juice.

There’s More Sugar

The more fruit and high-sugar vegetables (e.g., carrots and beets) you eat, the more sugar you ingest. Sugar stimulates the production of LDL particles, which transport bad (LDL) cholesterol into your arteries, increasing your risk for heart disease. Too much sugar can also increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Lots of Calories

A glass of juiced apples contains many more calories than what you get from eating one apple. Do some research before you start juicing so you know how many calories you get from each glass you drink.

Food-Borne Illness

Homemade juice isn’t pasteurized, which is a low heating process that kills bacteria. Drinking unpasteurized juice can lead to a higher risk of food illnesses, especially if you store your juice for later drinking.

The Cost of Juicers

To get the most juice out of every piece of fruit of vegetable, you won’t be able to use your current blender or food processor. The best juicers can cost hundreds of dollars. However, the investment can pay for itself many times over in improved health and decreased health care costs, if you follow a sensible juicing plan.

Additional Information

Mayo Clinic: Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits or vegetables?

Vegetarian Comfort Foods

Vegetarians don’t have to miss out on the fun of eating comfort foods they grew up with. If you’re not a vegetarian, but just want to reduce your meat, fish or fowl consumption, you can still eat many of your favorites by making a few substitutions.

veggie chili

Mac and Cheese Meal Squares

Kick up your mac and cheese with some tarragon, sliced cherry tomatoes and red and green peppers and onions. The tarragon takes mac and cheese to a grown-up flavor level, with the tomatoes adding acid and the baked onions and peppers adding sweetness. Add unique cheeses to make your mac stand out from the crowd and make sure to top it with toasted breadcrumbs. Let the mac and cheese cool and cut it into squares, like a lasagna. Serve it as a main dish after a cup of soup and a side salad.

Cheatin’ Chili with Corn Bread

OK, technically, chili doesn’t have beans, but vegetarians need protein sources and adding kidney or pinto or black beans to chili is a no-brainer. Make your chili as spicy, mild or sweet as you like, but be sure to dice your veggies in large pieces so you don’t lose the flavor of each. Add some corn bread with whole corn kernels to serve with your chili, or use old standbys like saltines or oyster crackers.

Hello Portobello Burger

Thick, meaty Portobello mushrooms, sautéed and served with your favorite bun and toppings will make you forget to ask, “Where’s the beef.” Experiment with different marinades or sauces for your mushroom “patty,” and moist lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized onions, along with a slice of gourmet cheese. Serve with sweet potato fries and your favorite beverage and you’ll have your meat-eating friends asking for the recipe.

Grilled PBJ & B

With one or two substitutions, you can turn a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into a healthier main dish vegetarians will love. Peanut butter is high in calories, but that means you don’t need a lot to create a satisfying sandwich. It’s also a good source of protein and healthy fats.

If you want a healthier alternative, try almond butter. OK, so jelly isn’t health food, but we’re talking comfort food here! Find the most natural brand you can to lower the sugar content.

To take this sandwich to the next level, slice some bananas and add them to the nut butter and jelly, then grill an interesting bread choice or a Flatout flatbread. Serve with a cup of veggie soup and some sliced carrots or celery and you’ll feel like mom just made your lunch.

Lasagna Primavera

There’s so much going on in lasagna you’ll never miss the hamburger in a vegetarian version. To make a lasagna primavera, dice bell peppers, mushroom, broccoli, onions, carrots, celery or any of your other favorite veggies into large pieces. These should be the stars of your lasagna. Look for a vegan or whole grain pasta and choose a healthy, natural cheese.

Ragin’ Cajun Rice and Beans

You should be able to find plenty of red rice and beans (a complete protein) kits in your grocery store, which are usually sold as a side dish. To make this your main dish, add your favorite veggies – try whole baby carrots as a substitute for chicken or sausage. They add some crunch and sweetness as well as extra vitamins and minerals. Take some instant corn bread mix and add some canned corn kernels, along with chili powder, for a great accompaniment.

Personal Pizza

Using a flatbread, English muffin, hard roll or bagel, you can have pizza anytime. Keep some healthy tomato sauce in the fridge, some of your favorite cheese, and a few veggies, and you’re only minutes away from a pizza party. No tomato sauce? No problem.

Try a white pizza with some olive oil drizzled on your crust, then topped with shredded or crumbled cheese, olives, spinach, mushrooms or your other favorites.

Easy, No-Fuss Healthy After-School Snacks

It’s a long time to go without eating anything between lunch and dinner for active kids. A healthy, tasty after-school snack is the perfect way to help kids keep their blood sugar levels better regulated, provide them the fuel they need for their activities, and prevent the dinnertime hunger that leads to overeating.

healthy snacks

Fruit and Cheese

Combine favorites like apples and cheese, berries and cottage cheese or pears and string cheese. Fruit and cheese provides a good balance of carbs and protein, gives your kids a natural sugar source and provides your child important micronutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants.

Veggie Wraps

Serve moist, crunchy, tasty veggie wraps with Flatout flatbread stuffed with a variety of items like romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, sliced radishes, avocado wedges, sliced tomatoes or any other veggies your kids love. Add a bit of creamy, low-fat dressing or some shredded cheese for protein.

Make a Tex-Mex treat with tacos filled with shredded lettuce and cheese, diced tomatoes and onions, guacamole and salsa. For a burrito, add some refried beans and Mexican rice.

Nut Butters

Everyone knows that kids love peanut butter. Fortunately, it’s also a good source of protein and healthy fats. Have your kids try other nut butters, including almond butter, which provides more nutrients than peanut butter. 

Almond butter has more dietary fiber, minerals, vitamin E and healthy fats than peanut butter, and is also a great choice for kids who have peanut allergies (check with your doctor first to make sure other nuts are OK if your child has a peanut allergy). Serve nut butters with baked, whole grain crackers. If you don’t have crackers, spread some nut butter on apple or celery slices.

Trail Mix or Granola

Chewy, crunchy, salty, sweet – what more can you ask for in a snack? Combine a variety of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate pieces, popcorn, broken baked pretzels and other goodies to make a healthy trail mix. Avoid ingredients made with processed sugar and carbs. Dried apricots, cranberries, dates and grape (aka raisins) add sweet chewiness to trail mix. A healthy granola bar with a glass of milk provides plenty of calories, carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Yogurt and Nuts

A sweet, creamy cup of yogurt with some crushed walnuts or almonds is a tasty, crunchy, filling treat for kids on the go. Read the label on yogurt cups to avoid excess sugar and processed ingredients.

Watch the Fruit Drinks!

Fruit drinks are packed with sugar, even 100 percent juice and all-natural brands. That’s because fruit has natural sucrose (which makes it sweet). Buy healthy fruit juices but give your kids small servings, or dilute the juice with water. Definitely avoid sports drinks – kids don’t need them if they are not sweating during long sports activities.

What are Super Foods?

You’ve probably heard the term “Super Foods” recently, but what exactly are they? Super Foods are high-nutrition carbs, proteins and fats packed with more vitamins, minerals, fiber, Omega 3 fats, lean protein and/or other nutrients than most foods in their categories. Boost your health this year by including more of these nutrient-dense foods to your meals and snacks.


All fish aren’t healthy, especially the types you typically find in casual dining restaurants such as tilapia and catfish. Salmon is a high-fat fish, but it contains the good fat that provides many health benefits – Omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 helps promote heart, vision and joint health, may improve brain function and can reduce the effects of inflammation. Salmon is also a rich source of lean protein and can be poached, broiled, sautéed or steamed for a healthy dish.

Very few foods contain natural vitamin D (although many foods are vitamin D fortified); salmon contains more than 100 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin D, as well as vitamin B12. Salmon also provides more than half your RDA of several other nutrients.

Other coldwater fish that are good sources of Omega 3 and lean protein include tuna, mackerel, sardines, halibut, cod and trout. Choose wild-caught salmon instead of farm raised for the healthiest fish.

If you’re served farm-raised fish, remove the skin, which is where fish process toxins and other impurities. Look for light tuna instead of albacore (chunk light and solid or chunk white), which contains up to three times more mercury.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are wonderful sources of lean protein, healthy fats, vitamin minerals and dietary fiber. Keep a jar of seeds on your kitchen counter and sprinkle them on salads, into stir-frys, onto desserts and into soups. Nuts are calorie dense, so control your serving sizes.

A handful of nuts with a glass of water makes a healthy mid-morning or afternoon snack of between 100 and 150 calories. Limit servings of peanut butter to around 2 tablespoons, which still comes in at almost 200 calories.

Whole Grains

Despite what low-carb and gluten-free proponents claim, whole grains are a healthy source of nutrition if you eat the right kinds and in the right amounts.

Sweet Potatoes

Like their tasty white counterparts, orange and purple (on the inside) sweet potatoes are a rich source of complex carbohydrates; however sweet potatoes are also packed with antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamins C and A, several B vitamins, manganese, copper, phosphorus and potassium.

The skins provide a great source of dietary fiber. Don’t feel guilty about adding some butter or olive oil to your sweet potatoes. Some researchers believe that fat served with sweet potatoes increases the intake of the beta-carotene into your body.


Eating a handful of blueberries is like taking a supplement, according to fans of this sweet tasty berry. Blueberries are a good source of fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals known as flavonoids.

There’s no definitive research on how helpful flavonoids are, but proponents believe they help reduce the impacts of inflammation and allergies, battle heart disease, memory loss, poor vision and cancer, and promote gut health, among other benefits. Blueberries also provide a good dose of vitamins C and K, manganese and copper, and are a low-sugar berry.


You’re probably hearing more and more about kale, which is a leafy green vegetable like spinach or lettuce. Kale provides lots of vitamins C, A and K, provides antioxidants and phytochemicals, and a wide variety of minerals.

It’s also a very good source of dietary fiber. Kale is less researched than other super foods, but the vegetable’s fans say it’s an ideal food to add to your diet to help with “detoxing” your system, and it can improve blood cholesterol and heart health.

It’s a favorite green to add to juicing recipes. Experiment with different varieties of kale, which can taste peppery, sweet, mild or bitter.


Beans are another rich source of lean proteins, are low in “bad fats” and are a good way to get dietary fiber. They can make soups, salads, pastas, stir-frys and stews more filling and reduce the amount of meat or fish you need to satisfy your protein craving.


Healthy yogurt (not the kinds loaded with sugar) is a good source of protein and healthy fats, and helps with gut health. Gut health is now recognized as something people should be paying more attention to because your intestines are the gateway to the rest of your body and play a significant role in your overall health.

Yogurt contains probiotics, which are microorganisms that help with digestion and gut health. Other easy to find sources of probiotics include pickles and sauerkraut.


You almost can’t eat too much oatmeal! It’s a great source of dietary fiber, a slow-digesting complex carbohydrate, a non-fat source of nutrition and can help with a variety of health issues, including colon cancer and cholesterol.

Avoid the little packets flavored with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins or apples. If you read the nutrition label on those boxes, they contain a load of sugar. Opt for a box of steel cut or rolled oats.

Broccoli and Spinach

These refrigerator staples can be served so many different ways there’s no excuse not to eat them more often. In addition to providing dietary fiber, they also contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals. Spinach is a favorite go-to green for juicing fans, and it’s a healthier substitute for lettuce on your sandwiches and in salads.

Broccoli is healthiest when it’s steamed, lightly microwaved or eaten raw. Avoid boiling spinach and pouring the water down the drain.


Once maligned because of their high dietary cholesterol content, eggs are now recommended as a protein-packed food with healthy fats and other nutrients. Now that dietary cholesterol has been found not to contribute to heart disease, add more eggs to your weekly diet.


This green fruit is fairly common in grocery stores and looks like a typical seeded citrus fruit when you cut into it. It won’t be an unusual or acquired taste– you can start enjoying this succulent treat without having to get used to it because it’s so sweet and mild.

It’s packed with vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, which makes it a better alternative to bananas if you’re an athlete who needs a post-workout electrolyte replenishment. It’s packed with vitamin C and antioxidants and contains serotonin, which can help promote better sleep.


Garlic not only wards off vampires, it can also help ward off unhealthful bacteria that can cause viruses and infections. Garlic might also help prevent or reduce the effects of a cold, inflammation, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and poor blood cholesterol.

Garlic is a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants. There’s not enough evidence to support taking garlic as a supplement, but adding more to your diet will add both flavor and nutrition to your meals.

After you crush or cut fresh garlic, let it sit for 10 or more minutes. This will help activate and convert enzymes that provide healthy benefits. Microwaving or heating whole cloves can suppress these enzymes. So, if you’re cooking with fresh garlic, make cutting or crushing it your first prep task.

8 Tips for Starting Your First Garden

You don’t need a big back yard or lots of equipment to start your first garden and begin growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables. You can even start gardening if you live in an apartment or condo.

It’s actually better to start small your first year to get a feel for what gardening is all about. Follow these tips to be successful with your first garden, which can grow into a fun hobby, a way to cut your grocery bills and big step toward eating healthy for many years to come.

steve's garden

#1 Follow the Sun

Take a few days to determine where your yard will have the most sunlight. For most fruits and vegetables, you’ll need at least eight hours of direct sunlight on the plants for the best results. This means you might not be able to start a garden in your backyard if there’s not enough sunlight. Six hours might be enough for some plants, but you might not get the biggest tomatoes, eggplants or zucchini.

Many municipalities won’t let you situate a fenced-in garden in your front yard, but you can spread plants around the perimeter. Since you’ll be starting your first garden with only a half a dozen plants or less, look for several areas around your front yard where you can plant vegetables and fruits in a container and let them grow tall with the support of a stake or two.

#2 Choose Your Plants

It’s easy to learn which plants will grow best in your locale and what time of year to plant them with a quick Google search. For example, okra requires high temperatures and will grow better down south than up north. Cabbage needs cooler temperatures and is a fall plant.

Some vegetables grow under the ground, such as carrots, radishes, beets, onions and potatoes and you won’t need to worry about their height. Other fruits and berries, such a tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, squash, strawberries raspberries and peppers, grow on vines above ground. Where you plant (e.g., windowsill, balcony, deck or flat land) will dictate what types of plants you should choose.

#3 Seeds or Plants?

You can start plants from seed indoors in small cups if you want to get a head start before the growing season. Even if you wait until spring and buy your fruits and veggies from a garden center as small plants, they’ll be cheap (less than $5 each). YouTube has many videos that will show you how to start plants from seeds inside your home.

#4 Add Some Flowers

Bees help pollinate your plants, so put some flowers around your garden to attract these helpful workers. Ask your local gardening store expert for recommendations for several flowers to make sure you have blooms spring, summer and fall.

#5 Pots vs. Plots

You don’t need land to plant a garden. Container gardens are popular for urban dwellers or those just getting started. Containers work well on decks, patios, balconies, porches, rooftops and window ledges. You can buy pots at a garden store or use containers you have around the house. You can even start a garden inside a wheelbarrow. Containers let you create a portable garden that you can move once each day to maximize plant’s time in the sun.

#6 Prep Your Soil

Depending on where you live, you might have soil that’s not well suited for growing fruits and vegetables. Your local garden store experts can help you determine if you can stick plants directly into the ground at your house, or if you’ll need topsoil, lime or other items to prepare your planting area. Turn up some soil in your yard, take a pic on your cell phone and bring it to your home and garden center (along with a baggie a soil sample) for free, expert advice.

If you’re planting in the ground, plan on using a spade, hoe, wheelbarrow and hose. If you’re committed to a large garden, you might want to rent a rototiller to prep your soil. Purchase some fencing and growing stakes to keep plants upright as they grow and bear fruit.

#7 Water and Weed

You don’t need to water your plants every day. Once or twice a week is enough if the watering is deep enough. Keep an eye on weeds and pests and look for online tips to keep insects from eating more of your fruits and veggies than you do. For example, putting coffee grounds around your plants can keep some pests away (they don’t like the smell).

#8 Eat and Enjoy

Know when to harvest your fruits and veggies, and if certain plants need pruning. This will help you grow the largest, most flavorful tomatoes, carrots, strawberries and peppers. You can find an answer to virtually any gardening question you have by typing into a search engine and including the name of your state (for more specific advice).

Why you should eat more nuts

Nuts and seeds can provide tasty protein, dietary fiber and healthy fats to many meals and snacks. Here are a variety of ways you can add more of this nutritious powerhouse to your weekly eating.

Healthy nuts

Benefits of Nuts

  • Healthy fats
  • Dietary fiber
  • Omega-3
  • Vitamin E (helps skin)
  • Improves blood cholesterol
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Helps with weight management

What About the Calories?

Nuts are calorie dense, which means you don’t need that much to fill and satisfy you. Read labels on jars and packages to learn how to create snacks and servings of approximately 150 calories. Learn how a small amount of nuts or nut butter and a companion (e.g., celery, yogurt, apple slices) will affect the final calorie count. Think about adding only one tablespoon and some honey to a single slice of bread for a filling sandwich to go with your soup.

Skip the Salad Croutons

Nuts add more protein, healthy fat and crunch to your salads, which will leave you more satisfied than if you just eat water-based veggies and toasted bread.

Add Them to Stir-frys

Nuts can change the texture of a stir-fry and reduce your need for beef, chicken, pork or seafood.

Try a New Nut Butter

Tired of or allergic to peanut butter? Make almond butter your next choice. If you like that, experiment with cashew and other nut butters. Beware of the sugar in Nutella, though.

Stir Nuts Into Yogurt

Many yogurts rely on sugar to take away the bitter taste. A few crushed nuts in more natural, low-sugar yogurts will make the snack less boring and more satisfying.

Bake Nuts Into Desserts

Muffins, brownies, cakes, pies and other baked desserts all taste great with nuts.

Mix Nuts Into Stews

Cashews or crushed walnuts add great flavor and more nutrition to meaty or vegetarian stews, chilis or curry dishes.

Serve With Roasts

Crunchy nuts cooked with roasted, savory pork, beef or chicken and the vegetables that have been cooked with them, add a unique aspect to roasts.

Top Fruits and Veggies

Spread some nut butter on apples, pears, celery or carrots for a quick, satisfying combination of protein and carbs.

You Can Drink Nuts

Don’t forget to add nuts to smoothies. You can include them when you start mixing the ingredients if you want to drink it with a straw, or add them toward the end if you want some crunch in a thicker, spoon-eaten drink.

Add Nuts to Pastas

Nuts are great way to replace greasy hamburger or sausage in a marinara sauce. Authentic pesto sauce requires pine nuts, but you can substitute any healthy nut for a delicious pasta topping. You can also skip the sauce and sprinkle in some crushed nuts into pasta tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Make Snack Packs

Create your own 100- to 150-calorie snack packs using sandwich bags. Add dried fruit and/or some bits of chocolate for a trail mix.

Green Beans Amandine

What’s an easier way to jazz up a limp can or green beans than with some slivered almonds?

Fill out Soups

Keep a nut grinder on hand to let you turn nuts into a powder you add to your favorite low-fat (or any) soups for more body and flavor.

Buy Them Packaged

Keep a can of unsalted mixed nuts and individual snack packs you buy in grocery store around the house and in your desk at work.

How to eat locally – farm-to-table

The Farm-to-Table movement is growing across the country, allowing local residents to eat healthy, delicious foods grown in their own areas. With a little planning, you can join the movement and help support your local farmers while tasting the bounty your hometown region has to offer.

Visit Farmer’s Markets

The easiest way to begin eating farm to table is to find your local farmer’s markets. In some communities, the town government organizes farmer’s markets where local producers set up stalls and sell their goods. Your shopping might be limited to one day a week when this happens.

farmer's market

You can also look for a commercial farmer’s market that’s open all week, similar to a grocery store. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, these markets also sell meats, fish and poultry, and healthy packaged and convenience items from out of the area.

Join a CSA

Join a Community Supported Agriculture group to get first shot at local produce and lower prices. With a CSA, you pay a fee in advance to help local producers fund their operations. You then get fresh food as it’s harvested. By cutting out the middleman, you pay a few hundred dollars for much more than that amount in food, compared to what you’d pay for the same amount at the grocery store.

Find F-2-T Restaurant

Look for restaurants in your areas that source local produce and proteins and check out their menus. You’ll not only support local farmers, but also meet like-minded people and pick up ideas for ingredients to add to your pantry and dishes you can start making at home.

Get Cookin’ with Local Foods

Plan a few seasonal menus based on your area’s harvests. Write a list of side dishes you can pair with a variety of proteins throughout the year. Thanks to sites like YouTube, you can find step-by-step demonstrations for making almost any dish online.

Just type in the name of an ingredient or a dish and you’ll likely find multiple recipes and demonstration videos. For more options, visit sites like to find scads of recipes and photos from your favorite celebrity chefs. And don’t forget to surf the Flatout blog for many great recipe ideas.

Green Your Thumb

You don’t need a large backyard, lots of equipment and years of experience to grow at least some of your own food. You can start with a small container garden or try your hand at growing just a few of your favorite veggies in your backyard.

Go online and research your USDA Zone to find out what fruits and vegetables will grow best in your area and when to plant. Ask for help at your local farmer’s market or send an email to your friends asking who gardens – you’ll get lots of helpful tips.

Include the Kids

Children are more likely to want to eat healthy if they are part of the process of buying the family food, planning menus and cooking meals. Plan a field trip to a local farm, dairy or orchard and let kids meet the people who grow their food. Take them to the farmer’s market or grocery store for short trips and teach them how to shop.

Plan a meal based around local ingredients and teach your young Emeril or Rachel Ray how to make the dishes.

Start a Dining Group

Blast email your friends to find out who cooks, likes entertaining, and is interested in starting a progressive Farm to Table dining group. It might be just a few times per year or a monthly get-together to try new foods, sample interesting wines and enjoy great conversation.

8 Health Benefits of Garlic

Proponents of garlic claim it can help do everything from prevent cancer and lower blood pressure to strengthen bones and prevent heart attacks. While some studies suggest links between taking garlic and preventing and treating a host of disease and conditions, there are few widely accepted studies to support any one claim.

garlic clove

Understanding what some of the benefits of garlic might be will help you decide if you want to add more fresh garlic or a garlic supplement to your cooking, diet and healthy living goals.

Here are eight possible benefits of garlic (depending on how much and what type you take).

Lo-Cal Flavor Alternative

The flavor “trinity” used by food makers to sell products consists of sugar, fat and salt – all things we love in our snacks and meals. Garlic is a flavorful alternative for kicking up dishes, and it’s low in calories.

Lowers Blood Pressure

At higher doses, garlic can help the circulatory system and reduce blood pressure. Talk to a doctor about taking a garlic supplement if you have high blood pressure or hypertension (persistent high blood pressure).

Can Improves Blood Cholesterol

Garlic can help reduce two of the four cholesterol measures you get when you have a blood screen. While it doesn’t lower triglycerides or raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, it can help lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Good Source of Nutrients

Garlic is a good source of manganese, vitamin B and vitamin C, and contains other vitamins and minerals, including calcium selenium, phosphorus, iron and potassium.

Garlic Might Reduce Inflammation

More and more health problems are being traced to inflammation, including the effects of flu, hangovers and indigestion. Some of the nutrients in garlic boost the immune system and help reduce inflammation, helping you combat aches and pains that occur for a variety of reasons.

Garlic Aids Digestion

Recent research suggests that it’s inflammation, not acid, that causes “acid” reflux. It makes sense then that garlic, long thought to aid digestion, does so because of its anti-inflammatory effects. On the other hand, too much garlic can cause heartburn in some people, so be careful about how much you put in your dishes until you see how you react.

It Bugs Bugs

Garlic is known to help keep fleas and ticks off pets when put into a cat’s or dog’s food. The bugs taste the garlic in the pooch’s or kitty’s blood, don’t like it, and then tell the rest of their flea or tick family not to bother that pet. Eating garlic or rubbing it on your skin might help prevent mosquito bites (although your friends won’t want to sit next to you while you smell like a vampire hunter).

Garlic Fights Colds

Taking a garlic supplement can help boost the immune system and help prevent or reduce the effects of a cold. This is one of the more documented health benefits of garlic.

You Can Ward Off Vampires

Just kidding…Or am I?

How to Add More Garlic to Your Diet

•Roast it – spread roasted garlic on some crusty, olive oil-drizzled bread for an awesome garlic bread.

•Season with it – experiment with some of your favorite dishes by adding just a bit of freshly chopped garlic, then adding more until you find the right flavor profile.

•Add it – to salsa, guacamole, mashed potatoes, eggs, stews, roasts, pasta sauce, stir fry’s and other savory dishes.

•Pause – don’t chop garlic and then immediately heat it. Some of garlics’ healthiest nutrients remain separate in the cloves. When you cut and mash garlic, these nutrients mingle and form a health-giving compound. If you immediately heat garlic after cutting it, this doesn’t give the nutrients time start working together. You also don’t want to overcook garlic, especially by burning it by adding it to hot oil at the beginning of cooking a dish.

•Take a garlic supplement—talk to a registered dietitian to make sure you buy the right type of garlic supplement and avoid expensive pills that promise lots but offer little.