The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers tips to help you choose the right food and beverages.

1. Use a smaller plate to help control the amount of food you eat.

2. Choose fat-free and low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt and fortified soymilk to help strengthen bones.

3. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

4. Sip water or drinks with few or no calories to help maintain a healthy weight.

5. Choose whole grains like brown rice and whole-grain pastas and breads.

6. Use ingredient and Nutrition Facts labels to discover what various foods contain.

7. Cut out foods high in solid fats and added sugar.

8. Try healthier recipes that use less solid fat, salt and sugar.

9. Set a goal to fit in at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week.

10. For personalized nutrition information based on factors like age and weight, visit www.SuperTracker.usda.gov.


Prepare for new school year

On that hectic first day of school, it’s easy to overlook the most important meal of the day, especially if sleepy, grumpy kids wake up claiming they’re not hungry.

Kids and teens who eat breakfast are more focused, perform better in school and make healthier food choices, according to Mooala.

Don’t let kids opt out when you can opt for easy. Fuel them with a protein-packed breakfast, like a peanut butter and banana smoothie, which is delicious, nutritious and ready in minutes.

Additional tips to make a smooth transition back to school:

— Start the bedtime schedule a week before school begins.

— Involve the whole family in meal planning for the week.

— Designate a quiet area as a homework station.

— Use an app to create a family calendar.

— Schedule annual medical exams.


Kid-approved healthy dip

Black Bean Hummus with Green Pepper Triangles, from the cookbook A Chef Walks Into a Cafeteria...Healthy Family Recipes from California’s Premiere School Food Company

1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

1 large green bell pepper, sliced in triangles

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Place all ingredients, except green bell pepper and cilantro, in food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer dip to a small bowl. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Dip bell pepper triangles into hummus. Prep options: Raid the produce section to make this dip fun. Red bell peppers, as well as carrots and cucumbers, also make good dippers for this hummus.


Mushrooms good for you, nature

Mushrooms are one of the most sustainably produced agricultural products, according to researchers.

Mushrooms are having a moment — popping up across food trend lists nationwide. This year, expect to see them incorporated into more products and meals.

Full of B vitamins, copper, potassium and riboflavin — a vitamin that plays an important role in the nervous system — mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free and low in sodium.

They’re not only healthy, they’re also earth-friendly: One pound of mushrooms only requires 1.8 gallons of water, 1.0 kilowatt hours of energy and generates about 0.7 pounds of CO2-equivalent emissions. In one acre of land, up to 1 million pounds of mushrooms can be produced.

For ideas to add mushrooms to your diet, head over to http://www.mushroomcouncil.com/recipes.

— Brandpoint