Fruit and Veggie Staying Power

After I have spent time and money buying groceries, the last thing I want to happen is food going in the trash. I try my best to prevent it through planning meals and snacks that I know will lead to all of my perishable food getting used before it spoils. Even with a solid meal plan for the week, it is important to store fruits and vegetables in the best way to maximize their shelf life. Here are some tips to avoid the dreaded fuzzy fruit or slimy lettuce in your fridge!

  1. Store all cut or peeled fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator. Prioritize eating these soon after they are cut.
  2. Mix up your fruit and veggie forms. Frozen and canned vegetables are healthy choices that fit well into many meals. When choosing canned fruits, choose items that are not canned in heavy syrup, which adds a lot of sugar to the fruit. Many canned vegetables are now available in reduced sodium varieties as well.
  3. Store food in the right place. Some go straight to the fridge; some need time on the counter before refrigeration and some can be stored at room temperature for multiple weeks. This one-page document outlines where different types of fruits and veggies should be stored. 
  4. There are products like bags and containers on the market that claim to extend produce shelf life. You may choose to use these, but the tips above will go a long way to preventing fruit and veggie waste without having to buy anything special.

Enjoy making half your plate fruits and veggies without wasting food or money!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

More Posts

Stay Hydrated – Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

Written by Kathryn Standing

Student Assistant, ISU Dietetics

 

Summer in Iowa always makes me think of trucks selling produce by the side of the road. They showcase fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, strawberries, and more. The grocery store produce department seems to be much more colorful, as a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are in season. I never have a hard time finding vegetables and fruits that look appetizing in the summertime. An added benefit to loading up on vegetables and fruit in the summer: their water content.

It is recommended to consume the equivalent of 9-16 (8 ounce) glasses of water a day (depending on age, gender, and activity level) to stay hydrated. This can come from both beverages and foods. Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet providing fiber, vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are also high in water content. This means eating a lot of fruits and vegetables reduces the amount you need to drink from water and other beverages. Food on average contributes 20% of your hydration needs. Most foods have some water content and therefore contribute slightly to your daily hydration needs. Other foods, such as oatmeal and soup, contain a lot of water and are good sources of hydration. Below is a list of some fruits and vegetables with high water content. While other produce provides hydration, these are some of the most common.

Food  Serving Size Amount of water as percentage of food weight  
 Lettuce, green leaf, shredded   1 cup  95%
 Celery, raw  1 medium stalk    95%
 Tomato, raw  1/2 cup  94%
 Grapefruit, white  ½ medium  91%
 Watermelon chunks  1 cup  91%
 Broccoli, raw, chopped  ½ cup  89%
 Carrot, raw, strips  ½ cup  88%
 Apple, with skin  1 medium  86%

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 5th Edition

It’s a good idea to eat water-rich foods and drink fluids at every meal to help you to stay hydrated.

Canning

canningHave you been bitten by the canning bug? Buying fresh local produce at the farmers market or growing it yourself in your own back yard garden has been inspiring lots of people to give canning a try. If you would like to try canning before making a huge investment in equipment, we have some suggestions.

There are two different types of canners that the home food preserver can use. Pressure canners can be expensive, so if you want to try canning, start with food that could be processed in a boiling water bath canner.

canning chart blog
Before you go out and spend a lot of money buying supplies, consider trying canning with equipment you already have in your home.

  • Stock pot – Large enough for canning jars to be totally submerged by 2 inches
  • Rack— this allows water to flow all around the jars and provides even heating inside the jar. You can use a round rack from a roaster or one that you cool cookies on.  If you don’t have a rack, make one by tying canning jar rings together with wire twist ties.
  • Lid for the canner—if your pot does not have a lid, use a cookie sheet or pizza pan for the lid.

You may have a family member or co-worker that canned in the past and has jars that they would like to pass on. You will want to check for cracks and nicks in the jars before using them. Be sure to wash them well or send them through the dishwasher before using them.  You can find jar rings and flats in most grocery stores. Resist the temptation to buy more than you will use in your first canning adventure. The jar lids—or flats as they are called—do expire.

Now that you have the equipment that you need and some idea of the sort of food you could preserve, it is time to find a recipe. At AnswerLine, we advise only using safe, tested recipes for your home preserved foods. By tested recipe, we mean a recipe that has been scientifically tested in a laboratory to ensure there is enough acid in the food and that it is heated long enough in the jars to remain safe over the storage life of the food. Generally speaking, recipes that have been passed down in your family don’t tend to be tested recipes. You can find tested recipes from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, The National Center for Home Food Preservation, the USDA Canning Guide, and the Ball Blue Books.  The links for these recipe resources are at the bottom of this blog. We like to use current recipes, so we advise not using any recipes older than 2009. Follow these links, or call us at AnswerLine and we will help you find recipes for the food you would like to preserve.

Recipe Reminders

  • Follow the recipe as it is written. This means no additions of other foods that might be tasty—the recipe wasn’t tested for variations. If you want to change things a bit, do it after you open the jar to serve the food.
  • Use the amount of headspace inside the jar that is prescribed in the recipe; this will give you the best quality end product.
  • Remember to adjust your recipe for altitude. All canning recipes were written as if everyone lives at sea level.  Those of us (most of the state of Iowa) that live above 1000 feet will need to add 5 minutes to any boiling water bath canning time for safe processing. If you use a weighted gauge pressure canner, add 5 pounds to the weight. If you are unsure of the altitude at your house, give us a call. We love to help.

We hope you enjoy your first attempt at canning and find a satisfying new hobby. Remember you can contact us with questions. You can reach us at 1-800-262-3804 in Iowa, 1-800-854-1678 in Minnesota, and 1-888-6336 in South Dakota. You can also call us at our local number 515-296-5883 if your area code is not from one of the above three states. Email us at answer@iastate.edu. or contact us on Facebook.

The AnswerLine staffAnswerLine
Liz, Beth, and Jill

 

 

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

More Posts

Blanching your Produce

We get lots of calls at AnswerLine from gardeners who are getting ready to freeze their vegetables. Blanching helps maintain the quality of garden produce and even experienced gardeners often ask us to review the directions for blanching as it has been a while since they did it last.

Blanching food is done for quality reasons, not safety reasons. Therefore, you do not need to blanch a food that you are freezing to keep it safe.  Blanching destroys enzymes that naturally occur in food so they won’t overly soften the food while it is stored in the freezer. In order to destroy enzymes, the food must be heated long enough to penetrate the flesh of the vegetable. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a guide available with times for blanching various vegetables.

We advise callers to work with small batches of vegetables. Otherwise the food will be in the boiling water too long and will be over cooked. If you can use a basket to lower the food into the boiling water, you can easily remove it all at once. Then you can submerge the food in ice water to stop the cooking process. After the food has cooled, package and freeze it.

Steps for blanching food:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Place a quart sized batch of vegetables in the water.
  • After the water returns to a boil (which should be within 1 minute), set the timer.
  • When time is up, plunge the vegetables into ice water.
  • Remove the vegetables and shake or blot excess water.
  • Package and freeze.

Remember that you should not put stacks of freshly blanched food into the freezer. Instead, spread the packages around inside the freezer. This allows the food to freeze quickly, which will give the best possible frozen food. You can also spread food onto a tray or cookie sheet with sides and freeze overnight. Package it the next day and the vegetables will not stick together—just like those you buy at the grocery store.

Happy gardening and happy blanching. Remember you can contact us with questions. You can reach us at 1-800-262-3804 in Iowa, 1-800-854-1678 in Minnesota, and 1-888-6336 in South Dakota. You can also call us at our local number 515-296-5883 if your area code is not from one of the above three states. Email us at answer@iastate.edu. or contact us on Facebook.

The AnswerLine staffAnswerLine

Liz, Beth, and Jill

 

Link for guide  http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/blanching.html

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

More Posts

Storing Fruits and Vegetables

fruit varietySummer is here and that means many fruits and vegetables are now in season. I have recently started growing my own fruits and vegetables to try and cut back on grocery costs and I am quickly learning that I will have more than I know what to do with! I will have an abundance of berries so Yogurt Parfaits will be a staple breakfast before work and Mini Berry Pies will be a wonderful treat for dessert. Summer Bounty Salad is a great recipe to use up any vegetables you may have on hand as any vegetable can go into this and it will taste great.

Now what to do with all the extras that I have on hand? There are many ways fruits and vegetables can be stored: on the counter, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer. Storing fruits and vegetables properly keeps them tasting better for longer. Adopt the “first in, first out” method -use the oldest fruits and vegetables first to prevent them from spoiling before they are used. When stored properly, most fruits and vegetables will keep for 3-5 days or longer after being purchased from the grocery store or picked from the garden. There are 3 different ways to store fresh fruits and vegetables:

  1. Refrigerate: store grapes, apples, berries, cherries, broccoli, carrots, celery, leafy greens, green beans, cauliflower, and asparagus in the refrigerator at 40°F or lower to keep them fresh. Anything that has been cut up also needs to be kept in the refrigerator to prevent foodborne illness.
  2. On the counter: melons, tomatoes, and squash should be kept on the counter away from direct light to keep fresh. Potatoes, onions, and sweet potatoes should also be kept out of the refrigerator but in a dark place such as a pantry or cupboard.
  3. Ripen on counter and then store in refrigerator: avocados, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums should be kept on the counter until they are ripe and then moved to the refrigerator to prevent further ripening.

Many fresh fruits and vegetables can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months if the freezer is kept at 0°F or colder. I love freezing excess fruit in individual containers to add to smoothies or as a quick topper to desserts.

I hope these tips will help you with storing your fruits and vegetables! For more information, watch  How to Store Fruits and Vegetables.

Amber Morales
Dietetic Intern
Iowa State University

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

More Posts

Shopping for Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables

watermelon slices fruitsFresh watermelon, cherries, and blueberries…sure signs that summer is here. My 22 month old daughter loves eating these summer fruits. I’m glad she likes them but oh boy does she create a sticky mess when she eats them; watermelon juice running down her chin, her hands sticky with cherries. The blueberries aren’t usually too messy, except when she drops one in her seat and sits on it!

I like purchasing fruits and vegetables that are in season because they have the best flavor and are usually the least expensive. My husband really likes fresh asparagus and would like to eat it year-round. However, I won’t buy it fresh unless it is spring when asparagus is in season. When fruits and vegetables aren’t in season, consider buying them canned or frozen for a better buy.

In the summer in Iowa, I enjoy going to farmers markets to look for seasonal and locally grown fruits and vegetables. At the farmers market I can talk with the grower about their produce and get their recommendations for selecting and preparing the produce.

Many fruits and vegetables are available at a low cost from the grocery store year-round like bananas, carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes. To find out when different fruits and vegetables are in season, check out the list on Produce for Better Health.

For more information, watch our video on How to shop for seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Whether it’s veggies from your own garden, the farmers market or the grocery store, enjoy all of the flavors of summer!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

More Posts

Half My Plate, Really?

myplate_greenIt’s no surprise that healthy eating includes fruits and vegetables. In fact, MyPlate recommendations say we should make half of our plate fruits and veggies at each meal. For adults, that is about 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. For children, 1 ½ cup of fruit and 1 ½ cup of veggies will meet their daily needs.

As you plan your week’s meals, this can seem overwhelming particularly if you have a picky eater at your house. Here are some tips to make fruits and veggies a fun part of every meal.

  1. Mix it up – choose a variety of fruits and vegetables to purchase each week. Fresh, canned and frozen varieties are all nutritious. When shopping for canned fruits, choose those packed in water as opposed to syrup. Here are some examples of fruit and veggie combinations that are $10 or less.
  2. Work veggies into your family’s favorites. Whether it is mac and cheese, pizza or chili, there is always room for a veggie boost.
  • Add frozen mixed veggies or broccoli to macaroni during the last 3 minutes of cooking time.
  • Top pizzas with spinach leaves, chopped tomatoes and peppers.
  • Boost your chili’s flavor and nutrition with chopped peppers or grated carrots.
  1. Don’t forget about breakfast! Start your day off right with fruits and veggies.
  • Serve fresh or canned fruit as a breakfast side dish, so quick and easy!
  • Smoothies are a fun way to work fruit into breakfast that children tend to enjoy. Here is a recipe for tasty and easy fruit smoothies.
  • For busy mornings, have breakfast ready in the freezer! Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos are ready in no time and they include veggies. Serve fruit on the side and you’re well on your way to a healthy day.
  1. We’re not far from the growing season here in Iowa. When fruits and veggies are in season in your area, they will likely be at their peak of flavor and lowest price.

For more tips on meeting your family’s fruit and veggie needs, check out this video!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

More Posts

‘Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle’ during National Nutrition Month®

vegetables heart mixedIf you planned to start eating better at the start of 2015 but have gotten a bit off track, National Nutrition Month® is a good time to refocus. National Nutrition Month® is celebrated each March to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme for 2015 is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.” Here are 5 tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help you do just that:

  1. Eat Breakfast-There’s no better way to start your morning than with a healthy breakfast. Include lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. Try our Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos to get you going in the morning!
  2. Fix Healthy Snacks- Healthy snacks help sustain your energy levels between meals and prevent overeating at mealtime. Make your snacks combination snacks by choosing from two or more of the MyPlate food groups.
  3. Get Cooking-Cooking at home is usually healthier because you get to decide how much fat, salt, and sugar to add to your foods. Check out our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. How to Channel to view a variety of cooking videos.
  4. Explore New Foods and Flavors- When shopping, set a goal to select a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain that’s new to you or your family. Visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org to learn about a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  5. Eat Meals Together- Research shows that family meals promote healthier eating. Plan to eat as a family at least a few times each week. Turn off the TV, phones or other electronic devices to encourage talking at mealtimes. Use our Mealtime Conversation Cards to get the conversation going!

For more tips on how to ‘Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle’ visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

More Posts

How many fruits and vegetables do you need?

Here are the facts.fruit salad in bowl

  • Most of us know that we need to eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Few of us eat what we need.
  • Many of us don’t know how much we (or our children) need when it comes to fruits and veggies.
  • Most of us need to eat a bigger variety of fruits and especially vegetables and prepare them without lots of added salt, fat and sugar (more on that next week).

I am fortunate that I grew up eating lots of fruits and vegetables and now that my kids are adults they enjoy a wide variety as well. My grandson, age 14 months will eat most fruits but he is not as fond of vegetables. Right now adding vegetables to his favorites seems to work best. I added shredded carrots to sloppy joes, small chunks of vegetables to macaroni and cheese, etc. With time and lots of exposure I bet he will learn to enjoy the different colors and flavors.

Jody Gatewood, from our SpendSmart team, discusses  the amounts of fruits and vegetables you need every day and some easy ways to get them into your meals and snacks. We also have a handout you can print on this topic.

Seasonal Produce – The time has come!

vegetables fruit mixed heartWarm weather has finally arrived here in Iowa and locally grown produce is starting to become available. Summer is my favorite time of year to cook because my favorite ingredients like tomatoes, fresh green beans and bell peppers are in season. When fruits and vegetables are in season they are often available at a lower price and fresh-picked produce tastes great.

I grow some of my favorites myself like tomatoes, herbs and peppers in pots on my patio. I shop for other items at the farmers’ market or even my local grocery store. I find that grocery stores in my area carry much more local produce than they did in the past. Here in Iowa we often see locally grown tomatoes, sweet corn, hot and sweet peppers and salad greens in the produce aisle in the summer.

Check out our video about eating seasonally and let us know what you’re looking forward to growing or eating this summer!

s Signature-1

 

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

More Posts

Join Our Mailing List

Enter your email address:

Categories

Recent Posts

Posts from the Past