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).
Asparagus, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, and strawberries are just a few of the fresh fruits and vegetables available in June! They provide a range of colors to eat and enjoy. It’s important to get a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet every day.
Colorful fruits and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are compounds in food that your body uses to maintain good health and energy levels, protect against the effects of aging, and reduce the risk of some types of cancer and heart disease.
Phytochemicals may be considered just as important as protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Many of the phytochemicals and other compounds that make fruits and vegetables good for us also give them their color. It’s important to eat the rainbow of colors every day to get the full health-promoting benefits of fruits and vegetables.
When planning meals, try to use colorful fruits and vegetables. Usually the darker the color, the higher the amounts of phytochemicals. When introducing children to a new fruit or vegetable, consider designating a color for each day or week.
Preparing fresh produce can be easy when you have the information you need and a few skills. The Produce Basics information found on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website and app describe how to store, clean, and prepare various fruits and vegetables. Check out this link: spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/cook/produce-basics/. Search for Spend Smart. Eat Smart. at your app store and download the free app today!
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, eating a variety of colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white—provides the best mix of nutrients for your body, not to mention being more pleasing to the eye. Recommendations regarding how much people need depend on age, gender, and amount of physical activity. To learn more about your daily recommendations, visit www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate. Most Americans need to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten every day. Remember, all product forms count—fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and 100% juice. By eating more fruits and vegetables, your risk of chronic disease is reduced.
Tips to increase fruits and vegetables in your diet:
Prepare fruits and vegetables as soon as you get them so they are ready to eat. Consider dividing into individual servings so they are easy to grab and go.
Have veggies and low-fat dip for a snack.
Add vegetables to casseroles, stews, and soups.
Choose fruit for dessert.
Add veggies to sandwiches.
Enjoy a fruit smoothie for breakfast or as a snack.
Potluck meals are a fun, low-cost way to celebrate the holidays at friend’s homes and in offices, classrooms, and churches.
During the rush of the holidays, show your concern for others by following these food transportation safety tips:
Car seats are often contaminated with germs that can cause illness. Cover your car seat with a clean sheet or large towel before placing the food container on it.
Keep cold foods cold, 40°F or below. Take cold foods out of the fridge just before leaving home. Keep them in insulated containers with a cooler pack.
Keep hot foods hot, at least 140°F. Put your piping hot food in a slow cooker set on low. Just before getting into the car, unplug the slow cooker and put it in a quilted carrier or insulated bag. Do not keep the food in the car for more than an hour. At your destination, plug in the slow cooker immediately.
If hot food has cooled during the car trip, or if you brought refrigerated food that needs to be served hot, do not try to reheat it with a slow cooker. Reheat the food in a microwave or on a stove top until it is 165°F. (For more tips on slow cooker safety, visit www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/content/slow-cookers.)
Everyone has a role in helping to create and support an environment for healthy eating. Try these tips to encourage healthy choices at meetings, conferences, parties, and other events.
Strive to provide half of the food served from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruit makes a great dessert. Beans and legumes, such as black beans and chickpeas, are vegetable-based protein sources.
Provide 100% whole-grain products in a variety of forms such as breads, rolls, crackers, or tortillas. Include whole-grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains as part of healthful salads, mixed dishes, and casseroles.
Serve smaller portion sizes such as mini bagels, 6-oz. bottles or cartons of 100% juice, or 3 oz. of meat, fish, or poultry. For more information about portion sizes, visit https://store.extension.iastate.edu to download publication PM 3024, How Much Are You Eating?
Limit availability of processed foods, which tend to be higher in sodium and added sugars. Instead choose less-processed snack options like raw or dry-roasted nuts, fresh fruit, whole-grain chips with healthier dips (e.g., salsa, guacamole, or bean dips), or whole-grain baked products.
Go green; provide pitchers and cups for drinking water during the event. If needed, offer non- or low-calorie beverages (40 calories per 12-ounce serving). Try water infused with fresh fruit, vegetables, or herbs.