Changes in the seasons bring more colorful produce to the market

Fall in Love with Fall Fruits and Vegetables

This post originally appeared as a guest blog in Aspartame.org 

Even if the weather doesn’t vary much where you live, you can use the seasonal changes on the calendar to reboot your diet for better health. All it takes is expanding the colors on your plate to feature whatever is being harvested. I mark the arrival of autumn in the produce section of my grocery store by the orange-hued butternut squash, navel oranges and Fuyu persimmons that suddenly appear alongside all those huge bins of pumpkins. It’s a sure sign that summer is over!

According to the American Heart Association, eating a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables is the best way to get all of the essential nutrients you need to lower your risk for preventable diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. To reach the goals outlined in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should consume 1-2 cups of fruits per day and 1-3 cups of vegetables per day, based on your age and energy requirements. Reaching those goals is easier if you remember you can include all forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice.

Thanks to rapid transportation, you can find fresh seasonal produce no matter where you live. In the fall, that includes the parsnips grown in Oregon and the Key limes from Florida. Even the internationally tagged Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and Asian pears are all grown in the U.S. and are being brought to market now, so be sure to look for them in your store. For complete lists of what’s in season throughout the entire year, check Fruits and Vegetables More Matters What Fruits and Vegetables Are In Season?

Let the Holidays Lead the Way to More Produce in Your Diet

Incorporating more fall produce in your diet is easy if you think about the most popular dishes on your Thanksgiving menu. Do sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and apple pie come to mind? There’s no reason to reserve them just for special occasions, and no reason to prepare them with all of the added sugars typically called for in indulgent holiday recipes. Many of your family favorites can be made using a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, to replace some of the sugar. You can find tried-and-true recipes on the websites for your favorite brand of low-calorie sweetener or experiment on your own.  The results should look and taste the same as the originals but will be lower in added sugars and calories, which is good for the whole family.

How to Make the Tastes of the Season Last

 Of course, pumpkin isn’t just for pie. I like to stock up on canned pumpkin puree this time of year so I can make these moist and delicious Raisin-Pumpkin Muffins in the winter months ahead. When you eat them for breakfast you can feel good about including your first serving of vegetables for the day in your first meal of the day! Other great uses for canned pumpkin are in smoothies, soups and chili. I also load my freezer with bags of fresh cranberries every fall so I can add them to quick breads when they are no longer in season and to this Cranberry Salad. It adds color and crunch to the plate thanks to the celery and walnuts. And if you haven’t tried pomegranate arils, the seed pod inside a whole pomegranate, this is the time to buy them. They also freeze well and can add some sparkle and extra vitamin C to any salad you serve.

When you go apple picking or buy a bushel of apples at a farmer’s market, making a big batch of this Baked Cinnamon Applesauce is a great way to enjoy them well into spring. Just freeze the applesauce in one-quart zip-top freezer bags and then thaw it to serve whenever you want it. Another great way to use up those apples and add more vegetables to your meals (cabbage, carrots and bell peppers) is with this Tangy Apple Slaw. In my house, a grilled cheese sandwich is the preferred side dish to  on a chilly autumn afternoon.

The leaves on the trees aren’t the only thing that change color in the fall. The fruits and vegetables on your plate should be changing color, too. Here’s to another flavorful season!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

Beauty secret found in fruits and vegetables has anti-aging properties

Anti-Aging Beauty Secret Discovered in the Produce Aisle

Beauty secret found in fruits and vegetables has anti-aging properties

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

Finding the secret to beautiful skin as you age is as simple as turning the pages of your family album. Just look at the photographs of your parents and grandparents to find the clues to how your skin might look as you get older. That’s because genetics play a big role in the appearance of your skin.

But is there a beauty secret for those of us who didn’t inherit the gene?

Eat More Antioxidants

The quality of your diet affects every organ in your body and your skin is no exception. Proper nutrition also has an effect on the overall aging process, so eating foods that inhibit or slow down aging holds the secret to more beautiful skin as well.

The best anti-aging foods are the ones rich in anti-oxidants.

Free radicals are formed as a consequence of our daily exposure to oxygen and pollutants in the environment. If left unchecked, they damage and destroy healthy cells in the body. Antioxidants prevent that process from getting out of control. Today, our bodies cannot produce as many antioxidants as we need to control the large numbers of free radicals we form, so we must to consume more foods rich in antioxidants to supply them.

Feed the Skin From Within

Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants are abundant in the produce aisle. They’re easy to identify because of their rich, deep colors. In fact, the pigments of fruits and vegetables are a clue to their antioxidant content.

Research has also found that eating those colorful pigments from fruits and vegetables gives you a rosier complexion, which is associated with increased attractiveness.

Studies done at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found red and yellow plant pigments, known as carotenoids, are distributed to the surface of the skin when we eat enough of the produce containing them. Another study found the change in the skin’s color associated with eating these pigments was perceived as healthier looking and more attractive.

The changes in skin color were perceptible after six weeks when subjects ate three portions a day of the carotene-rich produce, including yams, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, peaches, apricots tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon. Those whose diets that did not include these foods became paler.

This study supports others that demonstrate diets high in antioxidants can slow the signs of aging and the development of skin cancer. But the best news of all is that it doesn’t matter who your relatives are to take advantage of this beauty treatment!

What’s your favorite recipe for beautiful skin?

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

Fears of pesticides in produce may keep people from eating recommended servings of fruits and vegetables

Do You Worry About Pesticides in Produce?

FEARS OF PESTICIDES IN PRODUCE MAY KEEP PEOPLE FROM EATING RECOMMENDED SERVINGS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

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 read the post here.

Am I the only one who found it odd that the 2012 report on Pesticides in Produce was released this week, right in the middle of Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month? Stranger still, the report arrived just one day before the start of summer when many people across the country look forward to shopping at their local farm markets.

Talk about taking the spin out of your salad…

Why All the Fuss About Produce?

I do my best to encourage clients and readers to fill up on fruits and vegetables every day of the year, not just in June. The Dietary Guidelines recommend from 5 to 10 servings a day for those with caloric intakes between 1200 and 2400. Yet a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found less than a third of Americans consume even the minimum of five servings a day.

The reasons people don’t reach those goals are as varied as the salad dressings lining their refrigerator doors. Now we have to contend with the latest release of the Dirty Dozen in the produce aisles. That’s a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

As a consolation prize, they also identify a list of the 15 fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide residues, known as the Clean 15™.

What’s Wrong With the Pesticides in Produce™ Report?

I have two big issues with these lists. First, they undermine the more important objective of getting Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables. There is no single dietary change that can produce more health benefits than reaching that goal. And while the report does encourage people to keep eating produce, that message is lost in the sensationalized coverage of the dangers of the Dirty Dozen™.

My second issue with those lists is that they use measurements of pesticide residue as a sign of a problem without providing any evidence that they pose a risk to our health. Sure, it sounds alarming, but what would be the quality, quantity, and cost of our produce if no pesticides were used?

If you think the answer lies in buying only organically grown produce, you’re in for a surprise. They are not 100% pesticide free, either.

So what can you do? Here’s my check list to help you with your produce purchases.

Getting the Best Value From the Fruits and Vegetables You Buy

[ ] Buy produce in all forms: fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juice

[ ] Change the variety of the fresh produce you buy with the seasons

[ ] Wash everything you buy, even things with a skin or peel you discard

[ ] Limit the use of imported produce since pesticide regulations are different outside the US

[ ] Use organically grown if you are juicing large amounts for daily consumption

What would make it easier for you to eat 5 or more servings of produce each day?