Idaho Family Dinner Night 2021

Celebrate Idaho Family Dinner Night on September 27!

Eating together regularly as a family is one of the best ways to build and maintain strong relationships with your children. Frequent family dinners are linked to positive benefits for youth, including lower rates of substance use, decreased stress, higher self-esteem, and better academic performance in school.

That’s why the Office of Drug Policy (ODP) is kicking off an Idaho Family Dinner Night campaign to encourage parents across the state to celebrate Idaho Family Dinner Night on the fourth Monday of September which falls on the 27th this year. Let’s make family meals a regular event in your homes all year round.

Idaho Family Dinner Recipe Guide

To help families celebrate and connect around the dinner table, ODP created the Idaho Family Dinner Recipe Guide, which is filled with conversation starters, games and activities, and simple, budget-friendly recipes, including:

  • Slow Cooker Chicken Santa Fe Soup
  • Quick Trick Chicken Tacos
  • 5 Minute Easy Egg Fried Rice
  • Build Your Own Baked Nachos
  • Baked Chicken Parmesan

To develop the Recipe Guide and share resources with parents, ODP has partnered with The Family Dinner Project, a national nonprofit initiative that champions family dinner as an opportunity for family members to connect with each other through food, fun, and conversation about things that matter. ODP is encouraging Idaho parents to sign up for The Family Dinner Project’s free online program – Food, Fun, and Conversation: 4 Weeks to Better Family Dinners – for tools and resources to help make family dinners a household staple in just four weeks.

For more information about Idaho Family Dinner Night, download the Recipe Guide, and learn how to become a family dinner pro in three easy steps, visit

25 Ways to Use Zucchini

Idaho Beef Month

hamburgers, hot dogs, and vegetable kabobs on an open BBQ grill
July is Idaho Beef Month!

This special designation recognizes the tremendous impact the Idaho Beef Industry has had on local communities and the economy of Idaho and is a legacy that has been carried forward by ranching families for generations. Idaho beef strengthens communities and contributes to strong bodies as well.

Did you know that beef is not only delicious, it is also a significant source of many important nutrients? Check out these fast facts to learn how beef contributes to a healthy diet.

  • A 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients in about 170 calories, including high quality protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins. No other protein source offers the same nutrient mix.
    • According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, beef contributes approximately 5 percent of total calories to Americans’ diets while contributing more than 5 percent of these essential nutrients: potassium (6.1%), phosphorus (7.3%), iron (8%), vitamin B6 (9.2%), niacin (9.9%), protein (15.2%), zinc (23.1%), and vitamin B12 (25%).
  • Beef is a protein powerhouse.
    • A 3-ounce serving of beef delivers 25 grams of high-quality protein, which is essential for building and maintaining strength, for both your mind and body.
    • You would need to eat 3 cups, or 666 calories, of quinoa, per RACC (Reference Amount Customarily Consumed), which is 140g, to get the same amount of protein (25 grams) as in 3 oz. of cooked beef, which is about 170 calories.
  • The nutrients in beef promote health throughout life.
    • Protein, iron, zinc and B-vitamins in beef help ensure young children start life strong, building healthy bodies and brains.
    • Protein is especially important as we age. After 50 years of age, adults are at risk for losing muscle mass, leading to falls and frailty that affect their ability to age independently.
  • Many cuts of beef qualify as lean.
    • Nearly 40 cuts of beef – including some of the most popular cuts such as sirloin – are lean as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), meaning they contain less than 10 grams total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per 100 grams (3½ oz), cooked, and per RACC (Reference Amount Customarily Consumed), which is 85 grams (3 oz).
    • Recent research has shown that lean beef, as part of a heart-healthy diet, can support cardiovascular health. 
  • Beef’s high-quality protein, iron, and zinc strengthen a healthy diet and are a nutrient-rich complement to the nutrients found in produce like vegetables and fruits. An approachable way to build a healthy plate that includes beef is to first anchor your plate with protein, fill at least half of the plate with colorful vegetables and fruits and incorporate fiber-rich carbohydrates.
Healthy Beef Recipes

Throughout the month of July, celebrate Idaho’s beef industry and let your taste buds be your guide to a variety of delicious beef creations. Visit for recipes and tips to make Idaho Beef Month a fabulous and flavorful celebration!

Tips for Delicious Grilled Steaks

So, what better way to celebrate Idaho Beef Month than to fire up the grill and create some summertime magic in your own back yard? Launch your BBQ adventure with a few pointers from the pros at Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. that will help you create grilled steaks that are juicy and delicious.

Select Your Cut. Beef is versatile! You won’t go wrong with all-time favorites such as T-bone, Tenderloin and Top Sirloin. Why not try taking your grilling game up a notch with a cut you might not be as familiar with, like a juicy Flat Iron or a lean, flavorful Flank Steak.

Elevate those flavors. Marinades and rubs are a great way to take beef to the next level with minimal effort. Tender beef cuts can be marinated for as little as 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. For less tender cuts, marinating for at least six hours, but not more than 24 hours, will do the trick.

For inspiration and recipes, peruse the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. Flavor Boosting Rubs & Marinades collection.

Fire it Up. Make sure your grill is clean (to prevent flare-ups) and the rack is well-oiled (to prevent sticking). Medium and steady wins the race. When it comes to cooking beef, there is no need to rush the process by using any higher heat than medium. Cooking at a medium heat allows beef to achieve caramelization while still developing rich flavors and avoiding charring.

Grill to perfection. Use an ovenproof or instant-read thermometer to monitor doneness, and let it go – don’t flip the steaks too much. One flip usually does the trick; however, you should take care to avoid charring or burning and be ready to turn down the heat (or move to a cooler spot on the grill) if necessary. Keep in mind the internal temperature will continue to rise for a few minutes after coming off the grill.

Rest & Relax. It’s hard to wait but resting the meat before serving prevents all those tasty juices from draining onto your plate. For most cuts, about five minutes will do then it’s time to sit back and enjoy!

Slicing your steak? If you’re slicing the steak before serving, be sure to cut across the grain. For a drool-worthy finish to your steaks, consider topping them off with compound butter or serving with a sauce.

Idaho Beef Council Logo

For more information on Idaho’s beef industry, visit

Nutrition Myths

By: Leslee Blanch, RD, LD, Family Consumer Science Associate Extension Educator, University of Idaho Bonneville County Extension

Deciphering Facts From Fads

Sifting through nutrition information can be challenging, to say the least. Keep in mind that diets which promote the following principles are not based on fact, but rather on “fad”:

Myth 1: Rapid weight loss with extreme dietary restrictions.

FACT: A healthy rate of weight loss ranges from 1-2 pounds/week. More rapid weight loss is more difficult to keep off, and can initially include a significant amount of water weight. Extreme restrictions are difficult to sustain in a life-long eating pattern, and thus when previous eating patterns are resumed, lost pounds return (often bringing more pounds with them!) Extreme dietary restrictions can result in loss of muscle mass, excessive hunger, and nutrient deficiencies.

Myth 2: Avoid ALL grain products to lose weight.

FACT: Whole grains can be part of a balanced, weight-loss diet pattern. Whole grains are a primary source of energy and B vitamins for energy metabolism, minimizing fatigue. They provide fiber to help with satiety, balance rapid changes in blood sugar, and promote digestive health.

Myth 3: Skip meals to help with weight loss.

FACT: Research shows that skipping meals may actually result in weight gain. Skipping meals can slow down metabolism as our bodies temporarily go into “starvation mode”, conserving energy until fed again. Small frequent meals/snacks can stave off excessive hunger that often leads to overeating. Make sure meal and snack choices include “real” food:  Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein (including nuts and legumes), and dairy, as tolerated. Listen to your hunger cues: Are you eating because the clock says it’s time, out of stress or boredom, or because you are truly hungry?  Learn to “tune in” to satiety cues and only eat until comfortably full—not “stuffed”.  Slowing the rate of food consumption by chewing thoroughly and putting down utensils between bites helps avoid overeating and increases the enjoyment of our meals.


Utilizing the “Healthy Plate” model can control portions and support a balanced diet. Filling half your plate with vegetables and fruits, one fourth with lean protein, and one fourth with whole grains, adding dairy on the side, is a wonderful start to nutrition habits that can promote weight loss and maintenance and support lifelong sustainable eating patterns. Limiting or avoiding refined grains and high-sugar products will decrease unnecessary calorie intake.  Remember that regular physical activity can balance appetite, improve bone and muscle strength, balance moods, and assist in healthy sleep habits, all of which can play a role in weight management.

  • Jackie Amende, MS, RDN, LD, Family Consumer Science Extension Educator, University of Idaho
  • Laura Andromalos, MS, RD, CSOWM, CDE, Northwest Weight and Wellness Center, Everett, Washington

Healthy Eating Basics

Personal insight from Pete Petersen, an Idaho Department of Health & Welfare employee who has maintained a 115 pound weight loss for nearly 7 years!

I was morbidly obese most of 30 years and obese most of my life.  Partly due to predisposition, I faced a number of severe health crises.  However, I lost over 115 lbs about 7 years ago, and have kept it off. 

Throughout my health journey I often heard people say, “It’s too expensive to eat healthy.” But is it?  What really constitutes eating healthy or “food security?”

According to the World Health Organization, there are now more people in the world who are malnourished due to being overweight than malnourished from being underweight.  How can that be?  If you were to eat two gallons of mac and cheese every day, and nothing else, you could be considered malnourished because you are not getting important vitamins and minerals from nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables.  Before long you might even accumulate additional medical costs or lose work time.

Food security is not about getting enough food to eat, it is about getting enough of the essential nutrients and fiber your body and mind need to function well.  It is the foundation for health. The MyPlate graphic can help you choose combinations of food to get those essential nutrients.  It’s a pretty simple visual representation of a healthy, balanced diet and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

MyPlate is a reminder to find your healthy eating style.

Let’s start simple (my economical variation): if you include at least one serving of fruit, two servings of vegetables,  two servings of whole grains, one serving of dairy (or the nutritional equivalent) and one serving of protein every day, you will be doing much better than most Americans. 

For better health results, aim to eat a variety of plants.  While I am not vegetarian, I do not eat a lot of meat.  Most of my protein comes from plant based foods.  Beans and brown rice are a complete protein when paired together.  Quinoa is a complete protein by itself.  Brown rice and old fashioned rolled oats are great sources of whole grains.  They are easy and quick to prepare, and very inexpensive, especially in bulk.

I also avoid refined or simple carbohydrates and sugars as much as possible.  They are usually more expensive, more addictive, and detrimental to both physical and mental health.  On the other hand, complex carbohydrates, like oats, sweet potatoes, and brown rice, are an essential piece of our foundation for better health.

When I lost weight, I was familiar with the starvation diets that had been around for years.  I knew that would not work for me.  While I am not at all vegan, I love a quote by one who is: “Here’s the secret to weight loss: It’s all about crowding out, not cutting out.” Kathy Freston

As a last piece of humor, I’ll share something I recently read on social media: “I want to lose weight but don’t want to get caught up in one of those “eat right and exercise” scams.”

Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Healthy

By: Domonique Ayarra-Sykes, Coordinator Child Nutrition Programs, Idaho State Department of Education

During the Month of March, we look at how to help children make healthy eating choices.

Healthy habits begin in the home, but what about when your children leave the house?  The marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods is everywhere!  It is up to parents to teach children about making good choices when it comes to nutrition, but where to begin?

How can we help kids M.O.V.E. U.P. to the next level of healthy eating? Try these tips below.

M-Model the practice of healthy eating habits-If you do not like to eat vegetables, how will your kids learn to love them?  Children learn by watching you and it is important for parents to remember that they purchase and supply the food in the home. Making better choices at the grocery store will make modeling better choices easier at home.

O– Offer a variety of healthy foods.  Pay attention to whole grains and whole fruits and vegetables in different forms.  Think whole foods for a whole body.  If your child does not like cooked broccoli, how about raw broccoli (little trees)? Frozen peas can be defrosted in cold water for a few minutes and eaten as a sweet crisp snack.  Use a potato peeler to make carrot ribbons that kids can eat with their fingers.

V-Vary your veggies. Once you have found vegetables that your children will eat, encourage them to try new vegetables by incorporating a new item into the family menu.  Focus on local produce grown in Idaho and attach a learning lesson to the vegetable.  Did you know that asparagus can grow up to ten inches in one 24 hour day?  Google a time lapse video of asparagus growing and play it for your children. Find out what is in season with the USDA Seasonal Produce Guide.

E-Eat together. Sitting down to a meal allows family members to reconnect and share events of the day, but does not have to be kept to only the dinner hour.  Busy schedules may cut into the traditional family dinner hour, but what about an afternoon snack or weekend brunch?  Keep mealtime focused on family by having kids share in the preparation, set up or cleanup of food.  Make silly rhymes or sing songs to younger children.  Encourage children to eat vegetables by talking about how the food will keep them from getting sick, help their bodies grow big and strong, and help their brains think really hard. Try this family friendly rainbow pizza recipe. 

U-Understand that change takes time.  Nobody likes to be told what to do, including children. Children enjoy food when eating it is their own choice.  Help them serve themselves by using serving utensils that will fit into smaller hands.  Let children take small amounts and give them time when trying new foods.  Offer new foods many times and never use food as a reward.  Instead, reward children with something physical and fun. Remember, as soon as your children leave the house, they are being inundated with advertisements to eat processed foods in monstrous proportions.  Take small steps and be patient.

P-Portion snack foods into baggies or containers with ready to eat vegetables containing carrots, celery, red, orange and yellow bell pepper slices, grape tomatoes, cucumber wheels, or whatever vegetables your kids will eat.  Keep them on the shelf of the refrigerator that is easiest to reach for the age and height of your children.  It is not necessary to drown food with sauces, dips or dressings as kids will adjust to what they are exposed to.  Have children help with the preparation by washing the vegetables or putting them in the baggies or containers.

Forming healthy eating habits takes time, but of all the things that your children may or may not do in their lifetimes, they will eat, every single day.  Helping them learn to make good choices now, will impact them for the rest of their lives.


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.