In these unprecedented times, many of us are turning to our kitchens — both for food and for the soothing ritual of baking and cooking.

I know I take great comfort in making bread now more than ever; it makes me feel grounded in the present, and it makes me feel strong and empowered to be able to feed my family and myself. I make my pizza crust from scratch, too. It literally takes minutes in a food processor or a KitchenAid mixer.

Last week, I made banana muffins with my turning-brown bananas, slid a few into a Ziploc bag and took a few to the neighbors (keeping my social distance, of course). It was a way to share — and to check on my neighbors.

Community, care and comfort are things we can all lean into right now, and baking is a wonderful way to embrace all of these. Food has always been a source of sharing and caring for me, learned from my late mother and plenty of 4-H food projects along the way. As a dietitian, I believe food can be a journey to health.

We all have a little extra time as we shelter at home. Use that time to nourish yourself and your family with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains (make those banana muffins and homemade pizza crust with half whole-wheat flour). And consider a stir-fry or a Buddha bowl to get more vegetables in your meals.

In addition, don’t forget to hydrate and exercise daily.

I’m sending my thoughts and inspiration for ways to stay well-fed, safe and healthy.


Q: How can I get more iron in my diet?

A: Red meat and other animal proteins such as poultry, eggs, fish and shellfish are the best sources of dietary iron because they contain a readily absorbed form of iron called heme iron. Liver and giblets are also high in heme iron.

The other source of dietary iron, called nonheme iron, is found in plant foods such as legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, greens and fortified foods like breakfast cereals and enriched bread products. Nonheme isn’t absorbed as efficiently as heme iron. Pairing plant sources of iron like beans, lentils, tofu, whole grains and greens with a source of vitamin C like citrus, strawberries or peppers enhances nonheme iron absorption.

Recommended iron intake for males ages 19 and older and females ages 50 and older is 8 milligrams per day. For females ages 19 to 50, the recommended intake is higher, at 18 milligrams per day.

Orange-Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Peppers

Stir-fries are a great way to boost your intake of vegetables. This one is from the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.


» ½ cup orange juice

» 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

» 1 teaspoon sesame oil

» ½ teaspoon honey

» ¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste

» 8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast halves or chicken tenders, trimmed and cut into thin slices

» 1½ teaspoons cornstarch

» 3 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided

» ½ cup frozen (not thawed) pepper stir-fry vegetables (onions and bell peppers)

» 1 tablespoon ginger, minced or finely grated

» 2 teaspoons garlic, minced

» 2 cups frozen (not thawed) broccoli florets

» ¼ cup water

» 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds


Combine orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and hot pepper sauce. Place chicken in medium bowl or shallow glass dish. Add 2 tablespoons of the orange juice mixture; toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add cornstarch to remaining orange juice mixture; mix with a fork, or whisk until smooth.

Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large skillet or stir-fry pan over medium-high heat until hot. Drain the chicken, and add to the pan; stir-fry until lightly browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add remaining 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to skillet. Add pepper stir-fry vegetables, ginger and garlic; stir-fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add broccoli, and stir for a few seconds. Add the ¼ cup water. Cover and cook until broccoli is heated through and tender, 2 to 3 minutes.

Push vegetables to side of pan. Stir reserved marinade to redistribute cornstarch; add to pan. Cook, stirring sauce in center, until sauce boils and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir vegetables toward center of skillet, and add reserved chicken. Cook, stirring, until heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.


Serves 2 (1 cup each). Serve over brown rice, if desired.

Per serving: 350 calories; 30 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 15 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated); 3 grams fiber; 12 grams total sugars (1 gram added); 570 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.