Cool Beans

Yes, we all know that beans are the musical fruit. But did you also know that they’re magical?

I mean, not magic magical, but beans are an inexpensive, tasty, and nutritious powerhouse! Today I want to introduce you to the joys of beans. And we’ll even talk strategies for making them less musical too.

14% of the U.S. population is eating beans on any given day. Pinto beans are the most popular bean, closely followed by navy, black, Great Northern, and garbanzo beans. These versatile legumes even fit into two distinct MyPlate groups — vegetables and protein. Did you know that beans can be considered a healthful protein food or a fantastic vegetable option? Fit them on your plate wherever they can do the most good.

BEANSSo, why eat beans? In a word: nutrients. They’re full of them! Beans are great sources of…

  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Plant protein
  • Polyphenols
  • Potassium
  • Resistant starch
  • Soluble fiber
  • Total fiber
  • Zinc

According to MyPlate, many Americans don’t get nearly enough folate or potassium in their diets. Beans are a great way to correct this issue. Plus, a recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has revealed that beans “are among the only plant foods that provide significant amounts of the indispensable amino acid lysine.”

What does this mean for your health? Well, a diet rich in beans can…

  • Reduce your LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Decrease your risk of diabetes.
  • Help you manage your weight.
  • Improve the health of your colon.
  • Be rich in vital nutrients.

But wait, there’s more! Beans are wonderfully inexpensive and deliciously versatile. Did you know that canned beans cost only 4 cents per ounce, while dried beans average 11 cents per ounce? Just to compare, Angus Beef costs 31 cents per ounce!

Let’s take that bean and beef comparison one step further. What do you notice about the chart below?

Bean and Beef Comparison

A single serving of kidney beans has 20.5 fewer grams of fat, 6.5 more grams of fiber, and 48% fewer calories than lean ground beef! This means that beans are as great a bet for your health as they are for your wallet.

So, how can you make beans a part of your life?

Well, when it comes to canned beans, it’s as easy as draining and rinsing them, then tossing them into your next salad or batch of chili.

Dried beans require a little bit more effort. There are a few tried-and-true approaches, which I’ve outlined below…

  • Overnight: Cover your beans with several inches of water and let them soak in a large pot overnight. Then, when you want to cook them, drain and rinse the beans, cover with a few inches of fresh water and bring the whole shebang to a boil. Let everything boil for a few minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cook for a few hours, until beans are tender.
  • Quick: For a quicker method that skips the overnight soak, bring beans to a boil in a large pot. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them soak for an hour. Bring everything to a boil once more and then simmer for a few hours, until beans are tender.

A good soaking ratio for dried beans is 5 to 1 — 5 parts water to 1 part dried beans. Let’s look at an example. If you have 2 cups of dried beans, soak them in 10 cups of water. The cooking ratio for soaked beans is 1 part broth or water to 1 part beans.

Now the exact cooking time for dried beans varies based on…

  • Age of the beans
  • Altitude
  • Bean variety
  • Water hardness

Chicken Tostada SaladPhew! That was a lot of information about beans. It’s time to get practical. Here are some great (and free!) recipes for canned and cooked beans alike.

Oh and yes, sometimes eating too many beans at once will give you gas. Start introducing beans to your diet gradually in order to reduce your risk of musical side effects. Drink plenty of water while you eat beans and be sure to rinse canned beans well. These steps will further reduce your risk of any digestive discomfort so that you can eat beans without fear.

So what are you waiting for? Get our there and enjoy beans!

Here’s a free handout with a great bean recipe to help you get started…

Bean Recipe Handout

For More Information:

  1. Dry Beans.
  2. Nutritional and Health Benefits of Dried Beans.
  3. Beans and Peas are Unique Foods.
  4. The World’s Healthiest Foods: Black Beans.
  5. Cost of groceries.

Even More Bean Resources:

Protein Bulletin Board Kit

MyPlate on a Budget Brochure

Mediterranean Meals Poster

Breakfast Out

For many eating breakfast out is a real treat. It’s a great way to start the day and also reconnect with family and friends. But, how can you eat breakfast out and still strive for “healthful”? I asked this question of the participants in my weight loss and healthy eating class. They had some great responses:

• Only eat one egg—you can be satisfied with just one. Many people eat two out of habit.

• One couple liked to share a two egg breakfast at a local restaurant –each got one egg, one slice of whole wheat toast and one slice of bacon. It saves calories and helps the budget, too. I was pleased to hear this response because at an earlier class session they were complaining about what a restaurant charged for two eggs without the bread. They learned that they should keep the bread—make it whole grain– and just cut the portions. Yeah!

• Go for a veggie omelet— one class member really liked spinach omelets. She confessed that she hasn’t gotten the “nerve” to “hold the cheese”, yet. My thoughts…for her…why not go for an egg white vegetable omelet and keep the cheese. It’s a trade-off. Vegetable omelets are a great way to help meet that daily vegetable recommendation.

• There was also a discussion of splitting that veggie omelet breakfast to control portion sizes. That gives each diner ½ an omelet, one piece whole-grain toast, a ½ fruit, a small amount of potatoes. They admitted that they didn’t need that larger meal and weren’t really hungry with just half.

Egg white sandwiches at fast food breakfast places aren’t awful. You can take the Canadian bacon off, or feel comfortable that it has more protein and less fat than “regular” bacon.

Overall we were in agreement that oatmeal at a restaurant can be costly and quite often “instant” and not a good source of fiber. Also eating cold cereal out didn’t usually offer good options for high fiber and low sugar. Restaurants tend not have low-fat or skim milk or yogurts available. It’s also a budget thing—most did not want to spend the money for what they got for these items out.

Overall, eating breakfast at home provides more healthful options. But we all agreed, with some careful selections, a friendly restaurant and perhaps even an agreeable dining companion; eating breakfast at a restaurant does not have to sabotage an otherwise healthful diet.

Here are a few delicious recipes to make breakfast at home

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Check out our breakfast poster:


and our new My Plate Photo Poster in 18X24 (also available as 12X18)

My Plate Poster

Perspective on Portions and Budgets


I grew up with a grandmother who knew how to pinch pennies. She bought dented cans, washed aluminum foil and cut the ends off toothpaste tubes to get the last little bit. So as my husband says, “I come by it naturally”. I’m always looking for ways to save money.

But sometimes I forget that there are different ways to look at things. We as teachers need to remember to look at our students’ perspective, especially when talking about food.

I was reminded of this by a good friend. We were recently at her house and she had small 100-calorie packs of nuts. I was surprised at the idea that she would buy these items. Not that nuts wouldn’t be a good snack, but the thought of the cost and the excess packaging made me question her decision making.

She probably saw the puzzled look on my face and quickly explained why she bought them. She said she knew they were expensive but she liked their convenience for a quick pick-me-up snack when she works late. The other thing that she likes about these prepackaged snacks is that she doesn’t have to spend extra time in the kitchen. She admits she doesn’t like to cook and says any extra time spent in the kitchen encourages her to overeat. She also commented that she’s been on weight control programs in the past that had her measuring and packaging food. She hated this, saying that being around food this much caused her to think about food and want to eat more. She says she does better if she’s just not in the kitchen.

For some this really does make sense.

Another perspective. Maybe you don’t want to have those big bags of chips hanging around. Small bags of snacks force portion control and don’t tempt over eating. I don’t know if I could re-package some foods without eating about 300 calories in the process. If you just want chips as a snack now and again, small bags are more practical and you save money by not throwing away stale chips that don’t get eaten. This is especially critical with children and teens who tend to want to open a new bag before finishing the old bag!

When teaching wellness courses I’ve been guilty of encouraging students to make their own 100-calorie packs. Part the reasoning here is to have healthy ready-to go snacks available, but also (at least in my mind) to save a little money over purchased packaged snacks or vending machine snacks. But, the next time I teach the class, I may add a little more discussion and a different perspective on this do-it-yourself concept. The process of making these bags drives home the reality of the portion size with these foods.

Speaking of money. I did some quick calculations on the nuts. You get seven .63 ounces packets of dry roasted nuts for $2.68. That makes each of the little packets about .40 cents each. Calculated out, the price comes to about $9.50 a pound. Not as bad as I though it would be compared to $9 a pound for bulk almonds. But there’s more to this picture than just little packets of nuts.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Helping Schools Meet Their Budget




Amy Lazev of WJCC Public Schools needed to add color to her schools but had to work with a tight budget.  So she gave us a call earlier this week and we helped the school along with a short-time sale on the Exam Room MyPlate 12×18 Poster.  She loved the poster and we met her budget because we love schools and kids!

Exam Room MyPlate Poster 12×18


A few weeks ago we also received a request from a hospital in Virginia for sodium brochures and displays that we did not carry in stock.  We immediately put our A Team to work on designing the products and our customer was thrilled to see how comprehensive our materials were and how quickly they were available.  And now they are available at for you!


Low Sodium Success Brochure - Packets of 25

Low Sodium Success Brochure – Packets of 25

Salt Display Kit

Salt Display Kit


Are you in need of nutrition education materials and working with a tight budget?  Do you need materials that you don’t see in our store?  Just give us a call and we will do all we can to get you our newest and best-selling materials to meet your specific needs.  We love to help!

Sign up for our Nuggets email to be delivered to your inbox on Wednesday mornings.  You will find great weekly deals with 10-60% off our best-sellers each week!  We will let you in on a little secret… this Wednesday’s email (August 28th) has three products with discounts of over 55%!  Don’t miss out!

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The Great Greek Yogurt Experiment

IMGP0055Whenever it’s discussed the conversation is always the same….Greek yogurt. …it’s so good…but so expensive.

I guess I’m not a good yogurt eater.  I buy it and I eat it, but don’t necessarily like it.  I know it’s good for me, it’s a good snack when I want something healthful, low fat and a good source of calcium.  I’m always trying to get folks to eat yogurt for all those reasons, but yogurt was really not on my “yummy” list.

That was until I tried Greek yogurt.  I had it the other morning with strawberries. Wow was it wonderful. I felt like licking the bowl .  The texture is amazing. I had vanilla with the strawberries and just can’t describe how good it tasted.

So, what makes it so good?

Real Greek yogurt is made with sheep or goat  milk and is a blend of cream and milk. In the US most Greek yogurt is made from cow’s milk.  Greek yogurt is also strained. This straining removes more water (whey) from the yogurt and is what helps gives it that desired dense, firm and creamy texture.

In the US there is no legal definition of Greek yogurt. Because it has become so popular, you can now purchase a wide variety of what is called “Greek-style” yogurt. Be sure to read the ingredients label, some lower fat versions have added thickeners to improve the texture and some of the flavored versions have added sugars. It’s really up to the consumer to read and heed what they are purchasing.

One of the reasons you pay more for Greek yogurt is that they need more milk to get the same amount of yogurt.  The straining of the whey concentrates both the texture and the nutrients. While most regular yogurts have a protein content of around 5 to 7 grams per 8 ounce serving, Greek yogurt usually averages anywhere between 12 to 21 grams. It also has more calories. One cup of a popular brand of plain Greek yogurt has 260 calories compared to plain regular or non-fat regular yogurts that can range from 90 to 150 calories.

I decided to make my own. Although I have made yogurt in the past from fresh milk, for this experiment  I started with one cup of already made plain non-fat yogurt. I placed it in a strainer lined with a coffee filter, covered it all with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.  I was amazed at how much whey strained out.  From one cup of yogurt I got just over ½ cup of thick plain “Greek” yogurt and 7 tablespoons of whey.  IMGP0174IMGP0170

How did it taste?  I have to admit, it was tart. Texture-wise  it was thick, really thick and it just didn’t seem to be as creamy as some of the commercially prepared Greek yogurts. It worked, but really I don’t think I’ll be doing this frequently.  It might be good in a pinch if I wanted a really thick yogurt to add to a recipe, but to make it just to eat it took a lot of yogurt and time for a small yield.

I think I’ll be buying my Greek yogurt in the future.

When weighing the higher cost of Greek yogurt,  remember you’re really getting almost double the amount of yogurt (and nutrition)  for the price. The problem is, it tastes so good can you eat just half the amount?

Favorite yogurt recipes


Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

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Pineapple a-peel

I love kitchen gadgets. Yes, you have to store them.  Yes, it is something else to clean.  But they are fun and (I think) make cooking and eating easier.  Some foods are just hard to prepare. Pineapple is one of them.

My sister recently showed me a pineapple corer she purchased at a specialty food store for about $10. This is her second, the first broke from use.  Thinking it may hold up better under frequent use she says the next one she buys will be metal. It is fun to slice the fruit into rings and kids can have fun decorating them into happy faces.

If you’re not into buying more gadgets, many grocery stores have machines that will core and cut a fresh pineapple.  Either way do-it-yourself or at a store, you get the solid core out of the center and the prickly skins cut away.

I heard people say they don’t use these devices because it wastes some of the fruit. It is hard to use the little bits of pineapple attached to the skin.  Personally I think it’s a trade-off.  Yes, coring wastes a little of the pineapple, but it makes getting through the prickly skin much less daunting.  If it’s easy, it might even get people to eat more fruit.

Commercially this fruit is not wasted. Pineapple manufacturers use the parts attached to the skin after mechanical coring for crushed pineapple, juice, nectar and marmalade.

Fresh pineapple can be pricey, but this is the time of the year to look for your best deals.  Other times of the year, canned pineapple is readily available for a reasonable price.  Select pineapple canned in its own juice or in water to reduce the added sugar calories.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

IMGP9523Peeled Pineapple

Here are great pineapple recipes from

A tale of two chickens: cost comparison

After the meat man at a box store revealed that the raw weight of their rotisserie chickens was always greater than 4.82 pounds, I purchased a seasoned rotisserie chicken ($4.99). I also bought a 5 pound raw whole fryer chicken ($.99/pound) from which I removed some fat and the giblets (about 5 ounces). My goal: to determine if already cooked chicken was “a good deal”.

I roasted the raw chicken @ 20 minutes a pound (1 hour and 40 minutes) seasoned with fresh herbs. After cooking this chicken weighed 3.16 pounds. The rotisserie chicken package listed the net weight as 3 pounds, but my scale showed closer to 3.5 pounds.

When deciding if a rotisserie chicken is a good deal, remember that you only get about half the net weight in edible meat. When disassembled (no skin, bones or giblets) both chickens had almost the same amount of meat with slightly more rotisserie chicken. In this example, the price of the cooked chicken meat alone was about $2.75 per pound. In another section of the same store I found cooked chicken breast meat for salads or fajitas @ $4.99 a pound. In this situation pound for pound the rotisserie chicken was (cost-wise) a “good deal.”

All rotisserie chickens are not created equal. The price and weights of a roasted chicken can vary greatly from store to store. Another consideration: added ingredients or seasonings. More on that in my next blog post: “Is it simply a roast chicken?”

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Seduced by a chicken

Who hasn’t been seduced by the golden brown ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken? No matter how enticing, I’ve often wondered if this was a good deal—both nutritionally and financially. So I did some investigating and experimenting to satisfy my curiosity. Here is what I learned:

  • these chickens are usually sold by the “piece” not by the pound—it may look like you’re getting the same amount, but the starting weights (and the net weights) of rotisserie chickens vary. Learn the sizes for the chickens in your local stores or ask at the counter. You can also ask your kids to pick out the biggest one!
  • costs also vary from store-to-store and doesn’t appear based on the size of the chicken. Prices I found ranged from $4.29 to $7.99 each.
  • one chicken usually feeds 4-6 people. On the average, a 3 pound roasted chicken should yield 1 ½ to 1 ¾ pounds of boneless meat or about 50%.
  • seasonings and added ingredients on rotisserie chicken also vary from store to store.
  • the nutritional basics of protein, fat, calories and cholesterol in a rotisserie chicken are similar to a home-roasted chicken. The major difference, however, is in the sodium content in a rotisserie chicken.

When you’re hungry (and don’t have 2 hours to roast a chicken) a rotisserie chicken dinner, along with a plain baked potato and salad can be a better choice than eating out. And you can use the bones to make a great broth for soup. If your store lists the sodium content of the chicken you can determine if this is a good choice.

It is easy to make your own roasted chicken. In upcoming articles (5 total) we will explore the costs of cooked chicken and how to make your own.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

3 Easy Ways to Save Money When Grocery Shopping

Shopping smart can help you save money on fuel and food!

Between rising gas prices and food costs, consumers these days are feeling a crunch. The Department of Agriculture predicts a 4% to 5% increase in food prices this year, and the largest increases are forecast for fats and oils, estimated to rise 8% to 9%, and cereals and bakery products, projected to jump 7.5% to 8.5%. Gas is already edging closer to $4 per gallon. Here are 3 tips to help you save money, yet still eat healthfully.

1. Shop less frequently.

One way to save time and lower food costs is to shop less frequently. Fewer trips means less money spent on impulse decisions, as well as less money spent on fuel (and other transportation costs) that you use  in order to get the store. Plus, shopping less frequently will save you time. Who doesn’t want to ease a busy schedule?

2. Stock up on low-cost frozen and pantry items, especially when they’re on sale.

Foods for the pantry and freezer have a much longer shelf life than refrigerated items. Frozen foods, canned goods, and bulk pantry items also tend to be bulky and take more time to gather, especially since you have to push the cart all over the store. It is more efficient to buy more of each product all at once, so that you don’t have to repeat the same dance week after week. By stocking up a lot on freezer and pantry items at a discount store (or when you see them on sale) you can save serious $$$. Once you have a good stockpile, weekly shopping becomes much easier. You can simply dash in to the local market for a few fresh produce and dairy items.

With food costs on the rise, it makes sense to stockpile foods. Buying now gets you today’s prices.

And if you stock up on MyPlate foods, you are more likely to prepare and eat healthful meals at home instead of eating at restaurants and drive-thrus all the time. Foods prepared at home are often healthier and lower in calories than restaurant foods, and you spend less on transportation if you stay home as well.

Try these great pantry and freezer items. Remember to steer clear of added sugar and sodium.


  • Canned beans
  • Canned tomatoes and veggies
  • Canned tuna
  • Fat-free dry milk powder
  • Jams
  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta and whole grain pasta
  • Pasta sauce
  • Peanut butter
  • Rice and brown rice
  • Soups


  • Bread (whole grain)
  • Chicken
  • Egg whites or nonfat egg substitute in cartons
  • Fish and seafood (not breaded)
  • Fruits
  • Lean meat
  • Seafood
  • Turkey
  • Vegetables

3. Choose less processed foods.

By purchasing items that are less processed, you will spend less money and buy items that are often much healthier. For example, by choosing whole potatoes instead of potato chips or frozen French fries, you save a lot of money per ounce. You also reduce fat, sodium, and calories as well! Not convinced? Check out the price per ounce for each of the following potato products…

  • Baking Potatoes                      $0.06 per ounce
  • Frozen French Fries               $0.13  per ounce
  • Frozen Mashed Potatoes        $0.13 per ounce
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes        $0.21  per ounce
  • Potato Chips                           $0.32 per ounce

The processed items (in italics) are at least double the price of the plain potatoes.

Budget Shopping for a Healthful Lifestyle

It really is possible to save money while you shop, yet also purchase healthful foods that are good for you and your family. Here’s how…


  • HEALTH: Always buy 100% whole grain bread.
  • BANK: When bread goes on sale, stock up and freeze the rest for later.

Canned Goods

  • HEALTH: Try to choose items that nave little to no added salt, or at least reduced sodium.
  • BANK: Store brands, when they’re on sale, are the best value. Stock up when you see them.


  • HEALTH: Oatmeal is one of the healthiest choices because it is a whole grain and has no added salt, fat, or sugar. The same is true for shredded wheat.
  • BANK: Stock up when items are on sale. You can generally get items more cheaply when you buy in bulk.


  • HEALTH: Rice is a very inexpensive option that is also low in calorie density. Of course brown rice is best (being a whole grain and all) but white is not such a bad option, especially if that’s the only kind of rice your family will eat.
  • BANK: Look for sales on store brands and stock up when prices are good.


  • HEALTH: MyPlate calls for most people to eat about 4.5 cups of fruits and veggies each day.
  • BANK: Farmer’s markets and local stands often have the best prices on fresh, seasonal produce.
  • BANK: Watch local papers for grocery stores to offer sales on produce. When that happens, you can really get some great deals.
  • BANK: Choose fresh foods when they’re in season. This will offer the best value, and it’s fun to have a change of pace.
  • BANK: Don’t buy too much produce. It’s tough to use everything before it spoils. If you end up with more produce than you can eat, cook and freeze some soups to use up the extra.


  • HEALTH: Choose lean, cook lean and use portion control.
  • BANK: One word helps here – sale!
  • BANK: Use smaller quantities of meat.
  • BANK, HEALTH: Of course the cheapest protein item is also the healthiest and highest in fiber – beans.
  • BANK, HEALTH: If you don’t have a lot of time, cook lentils.
  • BANK, HEALTH: If you do have some time, consider cooking and freezing larger batches of dried beans.

Beware of these pitfalls

  • Expensive items include soda, chips, cereals, cookies, crackers, and convenience meals. These are also calorie dense.Try to limit these treats to just one per week – you don’t need to fill the cart with them.
  • Shopping without a list is dangerous because you might neglect some items that you need to prepare a healthful meal, while splurging on others that aren’t good for your budget or your health.
  • Shopping when hungry is also dangerous — it leads to way more impulse purchases, and they’re often not the healthful kind.