Easy Picnic Ideas the Whole Family Will Love!

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

If you want to take the family on a picnic, that means you’re packing portable food that goes with fun! There’s no need to fuss when your tablecloth is on the ground. Plan a utensils-optional meal and pass the hand wipes instead. Finger food is easy to serve and even easier to clean up. And single portions and packages allow for more variety so there are fewer complaints.

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Shorty sandwiches – Cut wraps and hoagies into 1-inch pieces for easy handling and the chance to mix & match these smaller portions.

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Bird-in-hand – Prepare chicken legs and wing drummettes your favorite way and let the family enjoy eating them right off the bone.

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Meal-on-a-stick – Nothing is more fun to eat than kebobs! Thread them with cooked and chilled meat, poultry, shrimp and vegetables and forget about the need for forks.

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Untossed salad – Use a divided serving tray to pack grape tomatoes, olives, cucumber chunks, carrot coins, broccoli florets – whatever your family likes – and a couple of dips so they can be munched as desired.

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Stuffed stalks – Fill celery with flavored cream cheese, cheddar cheese spread or peanut butter and raisins, then cut into 2 inch pieces so easy to serve and share.

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Finger Fruit – Make sure no peeling, seeding or cutting is needed for the fruit you serve. Try cubed melon, plucked grapes, hulled berries, stemmed cherries, chunked pineapple, and sectioned oranges, either tossed together or packed in separate containers.

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One-at-a-time snacks – Pack single serving bags of crackers, pretzels, and chips so there are no leftovers to go stale once the bag is opened. A bigger assortment means there’s something to please everyone.

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Two-bite desserts – Cut blondies, brownies, and bar cookies cut into small wedges or bake mini muffins so there’s a chance to sample just what you like, or one of each, without over doing it. Skip anything with frosting that will smoosh and be sticky.

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Just enough drinks – You can provide more variety and eliminate the need for cups and refills if you chill an assortment of small drink boxes, pouches, bottles and cans.

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Pack to play – A walk through the garage or trip to the dollar store will provide all the toys you need. Look for inflatable balls, Nerf balls, Wiffle bat and balls, velcro mitts and balls, Frisbee, ring toss, croquette set, bean bag toss, butterfly net, soap bubbles and let the fun begin

sugar rationing won't reduce obesity rates

Sugar Rationing Helped Us Win the War!

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN FOODS ARE RATIONED

While many Americans view Cinco de Mayo as a day to feast on nachos, tacos and burritos, another food is closely tied to this date that has nothing to do with the 1862 Mexican victory at the Battle of Pueblo. Wartime sugar rationing began in the U.S. on May 5, 1942.

Sugar bowls quickly disappeared from restaurant tables as honest Americans struggled to get by on the half pound of sugar per person per week their “sugar stamps” allowed them to purchase. This was about half their usual pre-war intake.

We all know that since the end of World War II sugar consumption has escalated well beyond those 52 pounds a year our forefathers enjoyed before it started. We also know that rates of obesity have increased during that same time period. Due to this correlation, some people believe sugar is uniquely responsible for obesity. Of course, many other things about our way of life have also changed over the last 5 decades that make it easy to gain weight, but more importantly, correlation ≠ cause.

As I considered the implications of the rationing that began on this day 80 years ago, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if we rationed sugar again? Would it help the 66 percent of Americans who are overweight or obese shed some of their excess pounds? Would it reverse the frightening increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes afflicting children? Would it make us choose healthier foods to replace the sweet desserts and drinks we now enjoy?

My guess is it would not.

Based on my 35+ years providing diet therapy and nutrition education to clients and consumers, I do not believe rationing sugar, or even removing it from the food supply, would solve our health and weight-related problems. Here’s why.

  • Prohibiting a food does not reduce our desire for it. The reason the foods and drinks eaten only on holidays take on such importance to us is that they are not served at any other time of the year. They become more highly valued as a result.
  • The demand for something sweet will be met by something else. It could be anything from an exotic fruit nectar to a chemical spray for the tongue that makes sour foods taste sweet, but the void will be filled. What we have no way of knowing is whether the alternative will be better than what we gave up.
  • Millions of people who do not abuse sugar are obese. Removing this one ingredient from the food supply will not help them or the millions yet to be born who will need a multi-faceted strategy to deal with this multi-causal problem.

So when I read about efforts to tax sugar-sweetened drinks, or limit their serving sizes, or put warning labels on them, I wonder, “What will policy-makers try next when they realize restricting sugar didn’t change anything?” Maybe they’ll borrow another idea from the war years and ration gasoline – at least that would help us all get more exercise!

Disclosure: I am a consultant to The Coca-Cola Company and the Calorie Control Council, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Get to know a farmer to really apprecitae what it takes to have a healthy diet

Who’s Growing Your Food?

GET TO KNOW A FARMER BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

Family farms feed the nation

Family farms provide the bulk of the food we eat.

I met a dirt farmer last week. He was in his 80’s and told me he was thinking about retiring. That’s right; he was still working his land, but said he might be ready to stop soon if he can find someone to take over his job. His story is worth knowing if you care about where your food comes from.

This man’s parents were Spanish immigrants who ended up in Central Valley, CA where more than 230 crops are grown on less than 1 percent of US farmland. Although the fertile soil provided them with a livelihood, they didn’t want their children to be farmers. So when Tony was born his parents decided he should be a dentist!

Tony did work the land while attending school and found he enjoyed the hard labor and long hours it demanded. Then while in college a farmer he had worked for was in an accident and asked Tony if he would bring his crop to market. Without hesitating, Tony left school to help the man. When the farmer realized he would never be able to run his farm again, he and his wife offered it to Tony since they had no children. Again, without hesitating, Tony accepted their offer.

Tony’s parents were furious that he quit school to become a farmer. They offered him no support and predicted he would soon be penniless. In one way they were right. In less than 10 years, at the age of 30, Tony and his young wife had $1,000,000 in mortgages on the land they bought to expand their farm. Tony turned the 50 acres he inherited into 1500 acres and grew everything from potatoes to peas to plums. And he eventually had 4 children to help him out.

One year, right after the last of their melon crop was harvested, boxed and loaded onto trucks to go to market, Tony and his wife decided to take a trip to Boston to visit one of their sons in college there. They got a flight east the next day. On their first morning in the city they took a walk through a nearby farmer’s market. Much to their surprise they found a table stacked with cantaloupes from their farm. The boxes beneath the stand were all the proof they needed that the melons were indeed theirs.

Tony told me it was like a miracle to see those melons in Boston that morning knowing they had been in the ground on his farm just two days earlier. He said that was when he was really able to appreciate what all the hard work was for, and why it was worth it.

Now Tony is ready to stop tilling his land, but his children have all chosen other paths for their lives. His grandchildren, too. So he’s looking for someone to take over for him, someone to mentor. He’s hoping there might be another pre-dental student out there who’d be willing to help him out.

For more information on the future of farming in this country see Family Farms in the United States.

Disclosure: I was visiting Sacramento, CA for an event sponsored by Sunsweet® and Tony is a member of the Sunsweet grower’s cooperative.

A personalized keepsake box you can fill with cards and letters is a great baby gift idea

Perfect Baby Gift Idea for Grandparents to Give

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

A PERSONALIZED KEEPSAKE BOX YOU CAN FILL WITH CARDS AND LETTERS IS A GREAT BABY GIFT IDEA

In our disposable culture, there are few things people hang on to forever. Handwritten cards and letters are one exception. But since the arrival of email and e-cards, those of us lucky enough to have a stash of the handwritten variety may be a dying breed.

The solution is a personalized keepsake box. It’s the perfect baby gift idea to welcome each grandchild into the 21st Century.

If you’re wondering why a personalize keepsake box makes such a great baby gift idea, I have three simple reasons:

  1. The U.S. Postal Service recently announced it will be ending Saturday delivery in August 2013. Given their unresolved financial problems and the rapid adoption of other means to exchange information, it’s just a matter of time before we have even fewer days of first class mail delivery. Your grandchildren deserve to know what it’s like to have a piece of mail arrive at their door with their name on it.
  2. Children are no longer being taught cursive writing in elementary schools. Those who were taught penmanship in the last ten years have had little chance to use it, so it’s illegible. Your notes and letters may be the last chance your grandchildren will have to see it done well.
  3. Cards and letters are a special way to stay in touch with your grandchildren, especially if you don’t get to see them that often. During your visits, you can go through them together and let them show you how well they can read them or discuss what they did during the holidays represented by each card. You can even use them to create a scrapbook together that includes photographs and other memorabilia.

As your grandchildren get older, you can write letters that tell them about what you were doing when you were their age. Who knows, they may become interested in doing some ancestry research online so they can tell you more about your family heritage. If you do get into researching your ancestry with grandchildren, don’t forget to talk about your family health history with their parents.

I still get excited when my mail is delivered. Why not let your grandchildren experience that same excitement when a letter is delivered with their name boldly printed on an envelope? It is certainly a more tangible way to connect with a two year old than trying to talk to him on the phone. Plus the excitement of opening a card or letter can be revisited many times over when the sentiments shared inside are read again and again.

And who knows, your grandchildren just might write back!

Campaign raises heart disease awareness in woman using red dress symbol and helps them prevent heart disease by learning heart facts

Red Dress Symbol Helps Prevent Heart Disease in Women

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

CAMPAIGN RAISES HEART DISEASE AWARENESS IN WOMAN USING RED DRESS SYMBOL AND HELPS THEM PREVENT HEART DISEASE BY LEARNING HEART FACTS

As we all know by now, Michelle Obama wore a red dress to the inaugural ball. When she made her appearance it answered the biggest question since the election, “Who designed her gown?” I’m sure no one was thinking about her choice as a symbol for heart disease awareness in women.

But if seeing that Jason Wu gown was a reminder to women to learn our risk factors to prevent heart disease, it may have saved many lives. One woman out of every four in the United States will die from heart disease this year. Knowing the heart facts represented by that red dress is important for us all, but even more so for African American women whose rates of heart disease are twice those of white women.

What Is Heart Disease?

Any disease affecting the heart or the blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to it is a form of heart disease. It includes hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke (loss of blood to the brain), dysrhythmias (abnormalities in heart rhythm), cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), congestive heart failure (inability to pump sufficient blood), inflammatory heart disease (inflammation of the heart muscle) and rheumatic heart disease (infection in the heart).

These are not just diseases that happen to men or old people.

Heart disease occurs in women at the same rate as men, and at any age, but women are much less likely to pay attention to the early warning signs. That’s a problem because there is no cure for it. No pills, no procedures, no surgery can make heart disease go away. Once you have it you’ll always have it. Early intervention is the only way to minimize the damage and extend the quality of one’s life.

So what are we waiting for ladies?

What Can We Do To Prevent Heart Disease?

The risks for heart disease fall into two simple categories: Risks you can’t change and those you can. Age and family history fall into the first category. Smoking, being inactive or overweight are in the second.

I love this handy wallet card that lists the questions you should ask your doctor to find out your personal risk of heart disease. It provides a place to record the all-important “numbers” that help determine your risk, explains what the goals are for improving those numbers, and suggests things you can do to lower them. One recommendation is to adopt a heart-healthy diet, which is good for the entire family.

Are you ready to get started? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there will be plenty of red dresses to remind you. Once you know how to prevent heart disease, be sure to share the red dress story to raise heart disease awareness in your daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, mothers, and other women in your life so they can lower their risk, too.

You don’t have to serve diet snacks if you use these healthy snack ideas

Need Healthy Snack Food Ideas for the Super Bowl?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO SERVE DIET SNACKS IF YOU USE THESE HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS

When the Taco Bell advertising team came up with the idea to bash veggie platters at Super Bowl parties, they weren’t just knocking vegetables. The ad implied that all healthy snack food ideas are unwelcomed at the biggest gridiron event of the year. Now that the ads have been pulled, it has left many people wondering whether any diet snacks can be safely served on game day.

Do not despair! There are other ways to curb your party food consumption without trying to sneak broccoli into the chili con carne!

Beware of Halos

One of the biggest mistakes we can make when faced with lots of food choices is to separate the choices into “good” and “bad” foods. No matter what criteria we use to make the distinction, it always leads to the same illogical conclusion that if we eat mostly good food, it’s okay to eat some bad food, too.

This is called the Halo Effect, where we believe the good food – they’re the ones wearing the halo – can somehow magically cancel out the risks of the bad foods.

Mathematically, this just doesn’t work out in our favor. The amount of fat, sodium and calories in 20 potato chips submerged in a half cup of onion dip cannot be cancelled out by a 20 baby carrots dabbed in hummus. Same is true about eating the celery sticks served with the Buffalo wings. The numbers just don’t jibe.

This does not mean we can never eat the chips, dips and wings. We just have to be more realistic about how many we can afford to add to our fat, sodium and calorie tally for the day.

“Watch” What You Eat

As much as we all feel drawn to food by its smell and taste, our vision plays a role in what and how much we eat, too. I’m not talking about attractive plating arrangements, but the color and size of the plates and bowls its served in. Food marketers use this information to get us to eat more of their products, but we turn the tables on them and use it to eat less.

A study done in the Department of Social and Economic Psychology at the University of Basel Switzerland found people ate less snack food from a red plate and drank less soft drink from a red cup than they did when blue or white plates and cups were used. The researchers hypothesize that the color red serves as a subliminal stop sign that helps to reduce how much we eat.

That’s good news for San Francisco 49er’s fans who can use the team’s red and gold colors for their party ware.

Tackle the “Hidden Persuaders”

Even if there won’t be any diet snacks at your Super Bowl spread, there are ways to deal with mindless eating so you don’t overindulge. Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Brain Wansink, a consumer behavior psychologist, we now have proof that how we serve food is as important as what we serve.

Use these Healthy Snack Food Ideas to Eat Less at Your Super Bowl Party

  • Use tall slender glasses for drinks instead of short wide ones
  • Fill a basket with single-serving bags of chips instead of having big bowls filled with chips
  • Offer only 1 or 2 types of chips instead of 3 or more
  • Place some of the snack food just out of reach so guests have to get up to have more
  • Provide small plates for guests to fill with their own snacks and place scoops and tongs on platters so they can serve themselves
  • Offer snacks that require some effort to eat, such as peanuts or pistachios in shells, cheese you must spread, and candies you must unwrap
  • Fill candy dishes with single-colored treats, like M&Ms or Jellybeans, featuring your team’s colors rather than offering mixed colors
  • Provide medium-sized (9 inch) paper plates for the half-time buffet instead of larger dinner plates
  • Put plain names on your buffet dishes, such as “Chili,” versus more appetizing descriptions, such as “Rosie’s Three-Alarm Homemade Chili”
Proper manners from Downton Abbey and rules of etiquette for dining on soup

Downtown Abbey & Rules of Etiquette for Dining

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read my original blog here.

PROPER MANNERS FROM THE ARISTOCRACY AND RULES OF ETIQUETTE FOR DINING ON SOUP

If, like me, you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, the Masterpiece Theater series on BBC, then you must adore the display of proper manners that fill every episode. The rules of etiquette for dining are especially fun to watch.

Have you noticed that all of the formal meals eaten around the elegantly set dining room table begin with soup? I don’t know if it’s just an easy prop for the set designers to employ or an opportunity to showcase aristocratic deportment when faced with a hot liquid. Either way, I love watching the Crawley family eat soup!

It never ceases to amaze me how a humble pot of soup can become elegant in the right hands.

There are several advantages to eating soup that are worth preserving in our fast-paced and ill-mannered lives over here on “this side of the pond” circa 2013. Taking a cue from the aristocracy and paying homage to National Soup Month, there are some simple rules of etiquette that can be learned by eating soup. You might even discover that using proper table manners improves your family life.

The Setting

Hot soup requires a place to put the steaming plate, bowl or cup. This forces us to return to the civility of sitting at a table. In order to protect the finish on the table, a placemat or tablecloth may be needed, which instantly elevates the dining experience to something special. Then to provide a place to rest the spoon, a saucer or under liner should be used beneath the soup bowl. That presentation is enough to make everyone sit up straight while eating.

The Conversation

A steaming bowl of soup requires our attention while eating, so reading the newspaper, watching television or typing text messages is not an option. Once those distractions are abandoned, we can actually have a conversation with one another while waiting for the soup to cool since blowing on soup is completely unacceptable.

The Pacing

Eating soup requires the use of a spoon, unlike a sandwich (which was invented by a British Earl) that can be eaten out of hand. Spoons can only hold so much, no matter how hungry you are, so there’s no chance of over-stuffing your mouth. And since slurping is frowned upon, you really can’t build up any speed over the others at the table. Sipping soup off the edge of a spoon helps set the same pace for everyone.

The Pauses

If the soup is hot, that will also help with pacing, especially if you wear glasses and need the fog to clear before you can resume eating. These pauses encourage more polite conversation and allow time to drop a few croutons into the soup since crushing crackers is totally barbaric!

British Rules of Soup Etiquette

Carefully dip the spoon into the soup plate at the 12:00 position and delicately move it towards the back of the plate to fill it halfway. Lightly touch the bottom of the spoon on the far rim of the plate to catch any drips on the bottom, then slowly raise it to your mouth to sip the contents off the side of the spoon, never the end, and – heaven forbid – never put the entire spoon in your mouth.

Volumes have been written about the importance of gathering your family around the table to reconnect over meals. If you’re having a difficult time making the connection, why not try serving more soup?

 

 

 

Study finds restrictive diets and nutrition advice for elderly may not apply

Are Special Diets and Nutrition Guidelines Forever?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read my original blog here.

STUDY FINDS RESTRICTIVE DIETS AND NUTRITION ADVICE FOR ELDERLY MAY NOT APPLY

Have you ever wondered what the upper age limit is for dietary advice? I’m not talking about headline grabbing food fads, but the diet and nutrition guidelines issued periodically by the government and health organizations that tell us what we should be eating more of and what we should eat less of to maintain health and prevent disease.

It’s something worth thinking about if you’re approaching the upper age limit for advice on nutrition.

Food intake requirements are based on several age categories for those younger than 19 years to address the special nutritional needs of growing infants, children and adolescents. The only other special categories are for pregnant and lactating women. The rest of us are lumped into three big groups for anyone 19-30, 31-50 and 51 -70 years of age.

But what about all those people living into their 80s and beyond? Could they possibly expect the same benefits from following a therapeutic diet as a 55 year old? New research suggests the answer is no. In fact, there may actually be survival benefits to being overweight or slightly obese as we age.

Be prepared to take back some of the dietary do’s and don’ts you may have issued to your aging parents.

Researchers at Penn State University and the Geisinger Healthcare System have been tracking the diet and health outcomes of more than 20,000 older people for more than a decade. The findings published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging focused on 449 individuals who were 76 years of age or older at the start of the study and followed for five years.

Using information collected in a series of 24-hour diet recalls obtained by telephone, the participants were categorized as having one of three different dietary patterns:

  • Sweets and Dairy – largest proportion of energy from baked goods, milk, sweetened coffee and tea, and dairy-based desserts, and the lowest intakes of poultry
  • Health-Conscious – higher intakes of pasta, rice, whole fruit, poultry, nuts, fish and vegetables, with lower intakes of fried vegetables, processed meats and soft drinks
  • Western – higher intakes of breads, eggs, fats, fried vegetables, alcohol and soft drinks, with the lowest intakes of milk and whole fruit

The researchers then used the subjects’ electronic medical records to identify whether they developed cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and metabolic syndrome during the five year period. They found no relationship between any of the dietary patterns and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome or mortality, but did see an increased risk of hypertension among those with the Sweets and Dairy pattern of eating.

Gordon Jensen, one of the authors and Head of Nutritional Science at Penn State University, said, “The results suggest that if you live to be this old, then there may be little to support the use of overly restrictive dietary prescriptions, especially where food intake may already be inadequate.”

This does not mean that people who have been following all the right diet rules can now abandon them. They can actually look forward to the best health outcomes of all. But for the rest of the over 70 crowd whose diets and nutrition habits have not been perfect, there may be no need to keep worrying about what you eat.

Find the ebst corn on the cob by following these tips

How to Get the Best Corn on the Cob

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

SUMMER IS WHEN YOU CAN ENJOY THE BEST CORN ON THE COB IF YOU USE THESE TIPS

I’m from the Garden State (that’s New Jersey!) and I know a thing or two about getting the best corn on the cob. I have eaten it all of my life, but only in the summer and only when purchased from a farm stand. The freshness and sweetness of the corn was one of those things people made a big deal about when I was growing up. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have the same experience.

Here’s all you need to know get the best corn on the cab no matter where you live.

How to Get the Sweetest Corn

  • Pick it and eat it! Corn can lose 25% or more of its sugar content in the first 25 hours after harvesting since the natural sugars start to convert to starch as soon as it’s picked. The sooner you eat it the sweeter it will be.
  • Keep it cool to slow the conversion process from sugar to starch. Store it in a cooler if traveling any distance in the hot summer to a farm or grocery store. Avoid buying it from the back of a truck or a farmstand in direct sunlight. Place it in the refrigerator as soon as you get home if you aren’t going to eat it right away.
  • Keep the husks on until ready to cook. If removed too soon it increases the heat exposure of the cob and the conversion of sugar to starch.

How to Pick the Best Ears

  • Look for corn displayed in a refrigerated bin or well-shaded location.
  • Select ears with even green husks that are slightly damp to the touch.
  • Check to see that the tassels are pale and silky, not dry, with brown on tips.
  • Inspect the cut end to be sure it’s clean cut, not brown or soft.
  • Hold each ear in your hand to see if it feels cool, not warm, which indicates starch conversion is taking place.
  • Don’t peel it in the store or pick ones that have been peeled back. You want the husks tightly in place until you’re ready to cook it, and it increases the chance of bacterial contamination to expose the tip or pierce the kernels.

How to Cook the Best Corn

  • Choose a pot large enough to hold the number of ears you want to cook with enough room for water to cover them.
  • Fill the pot with unsalted water, cover with a lid, and place over high heat to bring to a boil. (Now is the best time to husk your corn).
  • If the corn is more than 2 days old, add ½ cup sugar to the water for every 6 ears you are cooking. The sugar in the water keeps the sugar in the corn from leaching out (by osmosis).
  • Add the ears to the pot once the water is at a full boil.
  • Let the water return to a boil without a lid.
  • Boil hard for another 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove corn immediately with tongs and serve.
  • Don‘t leave corn standing in water.

Your corn should snap when you bite into it and burst with off-white juices. It should not be chewy or tough. If it’s really fresh and really sweet, no butter or salt is needed.

Visit a pick your own farm to get the best produce of the season

All-You-Need-To-Know Guide to Pick Your Own Produce

IF YOU CAN’T GROW YOUR OWN, A PICK YOU OWN FARM IS THE NEXT BEST THING

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

Even if you can’t grow your own produce, that doesn’t mean you can’t pick your own. Every state has PYO or U-Pick farms – including Alaska – that make it possible. It’s fun, invigorating and a great way to get the freshest fruits and vegetables when ripe for the picking.

Growing up in New Jersey, blueberry picking was our thing. My mother would allow my two sisters and me to each invite a friend because she wanted all the free labor she could get. Our nimble fingers were perfectly suited to grasping the plump berries and filling our beach pails. I will always associate those trips with the Fourth of July because we came home red, white and blue from the sun-burn and stained fingers!

Why not plan an outing with your own kids, grandkids or like-minded friends? Check here to find the PYO farms in your state and what’s in season. The site provides pretty much everything else you need to know about picking your own produce as well.

Helpful Hints Before U-Pick

Call the farm first to get the most up-to-date information about crop availability. Weather conditions can alter ripening by a few days or weeks.

Have a back-up plan in case it rains once you get there, such as a visit to a local historic site or other points of interest.

Check with your local food bank about donating any excess crops you pick or grow yourself.

What to Bring

  • Small containers that are easy to carry when picking if the farm does not provide their own. Depending on the crop, you may need pails with handles, single-strap shoulder bags, or sturdy sacks you can drag.
  • Larger containers to transfer your harvest into for weighing, volume check or count. Sturdy cardboard boxes or woven bushel baskets are suitable. Use smaller containers, such as plastic produce baskets, for delicate fruits so they don’t get crushed by packing too deep.
  • Optional pail to fill with water and use to rinse produce before packing
  • Picnic coolers with ice packs if it’s very hot and crops will be in a closed car for a long time
  • Snipping shears or small knife to cut stems
  • Plastic zip-top bags for herbs
  • Drinks to stay hydrated all day
  • Meal and/or snacks depending on how long you will be picking
  • Picnic blanket to use when you eat, preferably under a shade tree
  • Hand sanitizer and/or disposable wipes to clean up before eating and at the end of the day
  • Cash, check or an accepted credit card – inquire with the farm first
  • Camera if you want to capture the memories!

What to Wear

  • Sunscreen on all exposed skin and possibly insect repellent if in a marshy area
  • Old clothes that you won’t worry about getting stained
  • Pants and long-sleeved shirt if picking from thorny plants or climbing ladders to reach into tree branches
  • Layers if starting in cooler morning hours that may grow warmer
  • Wide-brimmed hat and neck shield if out in full sun
  • Sunglasses or protective lenses if picking where branches may brush the eyes or face
  • Gloves, if preferred
  • Comfortable, enclosed shoes, such as old sneakers, that can withstand mud
  • Back brace if not used to a lot of bending

Alternatives to Picking When Visiting the Farm

  • Farm tours & Petting Zoos
  • Worm beds & Bee Hives
  • Jam Making, Canning & Preserving
  • Herb & Flower Drying
  • Homemade Ice Cream Churns
  • Hayrides & Sleigh-Rides
  • Apple Cider & Wine Presses
  • Corn Mazes & Haunted Pumpkin Patches
  • Cut-Your-Own Christmas Trees & Wreath-Making
  • Gift shops with supplies, cookbooks, and homemade foods
  • Seasonal Festivals featuring a particular crop

I’m ready for peaches and raspberries, what’s on your list?

Keep this Guide handy along with my All-You-Need-to-Know Guide on Shopping in Local Farm Markets