As we transition from winter to spring, many fruits and vegetables—like asparagus and strawberries—start to be in season! It is very important to remember to wash fresh produce prior to eating in order to remove any harmful bacteria like E. coli or listeria. The next time you reach for a fruit or vegetable, use these strategies to ensure it’s clean and fresh:
Wash your produce immediately before eating. Washing some produce—like berries—before storing actually hastens spoilage.
Wash all produce in cold water; do not use detergents or soap to clean the outside of your fruit.
Try using a vegetable brush for fruits and vegetables that have a thick skin.
Produce that has tiny nooks and crannies—like cauliflower and broccoli—should be soaked in cold, clean water for one to two minutes.
You don’t need to rewash products that are labeled “ready to eat” or “triple washed.”
For visual demonstrations of other ways to select, store, and prepare food, check out the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/videos).
March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s theme is Eat Right, Bite by Bite.
The first “bite” is knowing portion sizes. Use common items to help guide your portion sizes:
Baseball or fist = 1 cup salad greens or cereal
Deck of cards = 3 ounces of meat, fish, or poultry
Four stacked dice = 1 1/2 ounces of cheese
One die = 1 teaspoon of margarine or spread
Ping pong ball = 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
Do you like to bake breads, muffins, or cookies? Another “bite” to consider is increasing your whole grain intake. Simply substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour. Start by substituting one-fourth of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, then one-half, three-fourths, and possibly all!
Another “bite” to consider? Replace some or all of the oil in breads, muffins, or cookies with fruit canned in 100% juice. This will help limit fat intake. Pureed fruit, like applesauce, works best. Use the same approach as the whole wheat flour—start by substituting one-fourth of the oil with fruit and work up to one-half or three-fourths.
Small changes do have a positive effect on your health, and every little “bite” is a step in the right direction!
Bacteria love avocados almost as much as people do. Unlike most fruits, the avocado is low in acid. That makes it good for bacterial growth. In addition, we like to eat avocados raw, which means we don’t kill the bacteria by cooking.
Based on a 2014–2016 study, the FDA found that about 18% of avocados had Listeria monocytogenes on their skins. In small amounts, this germ isn’t dangerous for healthy adults. However, it can cause serious harm to young children, older people, and pregnant women.
To prepare an avocado safely, you first need to wash your handscarefully.
Then rinse the avocado’s skin thoroughly before you cut it open.Otherwise, the blade will carry the germs on the skin into the pulp.
Throw away the skin and the pit promptly.
To avoid bacterial growth, eat the avocado as soon as possible aftercutting and peeling.
We Americans are eating more avocados than we did a generation ago. In 1985, the average American ate only 1 pound a year. Now it’s more than 7.5 pounds!
Why do we love avocados? It’s not because avocados are cheap. The average price of a Hass avocado reached $2.10
Avocados are a luxury that is actually good for us.
Avocados are rich, creamy, and high in fat. However, this fat is mostly monounsaturated—so, heart healthy! People who eat avocados every day can raise their HDL (good) cholesterol and lower their LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Avocado-eaters get 20 vitamins and minerals in one fruit! They also get the nutrients that most Americans need more of—magnesium, potassium, and vitamins K and E.
Avocados have many phytochemicals. These help protect our cells from damage. In fact, eating avocados may keep your eyes healthy and lower your cancer risk.
Talk about versatile! You can use avocados in dips, sandwiches, and salads. They can make smoothies creamy. You can even use them instead of butter on toast.
Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching. The big game is a big day for food. When food sits out at room temperature for long periods of time, the door is open to uninvited guests—bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Every year 48 million people become ill from foodborne illness! Don’t be the cause of a foodborne illness penalty flag! Follow these game day rules:
Keep hot food HOT and cold food COLD: Hot food needs to be held at 140°F or higher. Use slow cookers and warming trays. Cold food needs to be held at 40°F or lower. Nest dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them as needed.
Follow the two-hour rule: Perishable foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Between the pre- and post-game shows, you may easily have food sitting out 4–6 hours; temperature control is required.
Handle food safely: Always wash your hands before handling food, and clean all surfaces. Use different utensils for each food item and ask guests to use new plates when returning to the food table.
For more information on food safety and cooking temperatures, visit ISU’s food safety website or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.
According to the American Heart Association, eating fish twice a week will lower your risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. The best fish for heart health are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna. These fish are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.
So many people have heard about the benefits of omega-3s that fish oil is the most popular nutrition supplement in the United States. However, the latest research shows fish oil isn’t as beneficial as actually eating fish. Whole fish offers a wealth of nutrients besides omega-3 oil, such as protein and selenium. For reasons scientists do not yet fully understand, nutrients often provide the most benefit when they are combined with other nutrients—in the form of food!
Eating fish is both healthy and delicious! Here are a few tips for including fish in your meal plan:
Keep seafood on hand. Seafood doesn’t need to be fresh to give you health benefits. Canned and frozen seafood varieties are just as healthy.
Be creative. Try different ways to enjoy seafood like seafood salads, tacos, stir-fry, or with pasta.
Cook it safely. Make sure you follow safe food handling practices and cook seafood to an internal temperature of 145oF.
ChooseMyPlate.gov offers tips on how to get more heart-healthy seafood on your plate.