Your bananas, my bananas…Yonanas!

Banana Date Yonananas

Banana Date Yonananas

We’ve had a lot of fun with Yonanas! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Yonanas is a small kitchen appliance that takes frozen bananas and other fruit and quickly processes them into a creamy frozen dessert-type product that looks like it came out of the machine of your favorite frozen yogurt place.

We had friends over for dinner one evening and we pulled out the Yonanas machine to make dessert. The friend admitted that she thought to herself “there’s a sucker born every day, what is this thing?” But after eating the Yonanas she wanted one for herself.

The joy of Yonanas is you’re eating pure fruit. Although the name implies bananas , you can use any fruit or combination of fruit. It is recommended to use a banana every time because it helps make the creamy consistency— I personally  like the combination of bananas, mango and strawberries. The combinations are endless and it comes with a recipe book.

Just think of all the calories and fat calories you can save by eating Yonana instead of ice cream? Two bananas, 1/2 cup strawberries and a half of a mango makes more than enough Yonana for three people for only 112 calories each. Yonanas satisfies the craving for ice cream without the added cream, sugar or preservatives. It’s a fun way to encourage kids to eat more fruit. Plus bananas are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, manganese and vitamins B6 & C.

A couple tips: the fruit needs to slightly thaw (5-8 minutes) before putting through the Yonana machine to get a creamy texture. It doesn’t take long. If it thaws out too much, your final product will be mushy. The machine also comes with popsicle forms to refreeze any leftover product. I haven’t been real successful with this; you may need to experiment a little.

Another plus…it’s a great money saver. Fruit that would otherwise get tossed (over 40% of food in the US is discarded) is now saved for the Yonana! Simply freeze those very ripe bananas or buy the “mark down” bananas for Yonanas. No more wasted fruit or feeling the need to make even more banana muffins or nut bread. Plus kids can come up with their own flavor concoctions or toppings. It would take an older child or adult to push the fruit through because some exertion is needed.

A word of caution: as with any small appliance, it’s only good if you’ll use it. It’s easy to clean. I put it in the dishwasher.

Check out their website at www.yonanas.com (note: you can get a refurbished machine for 20% off with Amazon’s Warehouse Deal).

Banana Yonananas "Ice Cream" Tropical

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Check out the savings:

Food: Calories per half cup: Fat (g) Calories per week for a year:
Yonanas 112  0  5,824
Ice cream 250 16 13,000
Savings  82 16  7,176

Fruits in the Art Classroom

Education is always an interdisciplinary process. Math, Science, Art, and English are learned in the kitchen. History, Math, and Science are often found in a laboratory science class. Math and Science often go together for nutrition.

Wikipedia defines it best, “Interdisciplinarity involves the combining of two or more academic disciplines into one activity.”

Art teachers may want to adopt a lesson that encourages their students to learn about color, value, shape, composition, and health at the same time! Here is one that I did to accomplish that goal:

In a study of abstract art we find many artists who deconstructed something to make a design. The most famous of course is Piet Mondrian and his work with trees.

Here is one with apples. The first image is an abstract painting with gouache that is inspired by deconstructed apples. I cut the apples and peeled them to find a variety of shapes and to study their colors. Then I produced the abstract image. This is all in pursuit of my Visual Art Certificate with UC Berkeley Extension as part of my commitment to keeping all of the products up to date with the most current styles in the art and graphic art world. I am brimming with ideas that will definitely come to fruition in 2018 and beyond!

But something happened in the studio – the students including myself began eating the apples I had in my bag and the entire classroom was filled with apples. Apples are one of the most popular fruits in the US and there are many interesting parts to them. So an art teacher could have a lot of fun using them along with their shapes and colors in drawing projects, abstract painting projects, and more of course. The apples did not go to waste! If you see the last photo I made a baked applesauce that consisted of 8 apples, 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I brought all to boil on the stove and then baked them for 20 minutes in a 400 degree F oven. When they were cool I mashed them with a potato masher.

 

 

A gift of pomegranate

cut pomegranateOne of my favorite Christmas gifts was four beautiful pomegranates. Pomegranates are one of those foods that I don’t often consider buying for myself. They are a real treat.
One of the reasons I usually shy away from buying them is that pomegranates can be tricky to peel and separate the juicy aril from the surrounding membrane. This is a slow process that usually results in stained fingers and spots of pomegranate juice on my clothes.
Never heard of the word “aril” before? It means a fleshy appendage covering seeds—or seed sacs. Each pomegranate contains about of 600-800 of these arils or about ¾ cup fruit. The crunchy seeds and this surrounding juicy pulpy sac are the choice edible parts.
Knowing I like kitchen gadgets, my friend also gave me a pomegranate deseeder (www.seedout.com) and it does make getting the arils or seeds easier. There are several different types available in fancy food markets and most cost under $5.IMGP9372
If you don’t have a deseeder, there are several ways you can get the seeds out. It’s usually recommended to peel them underwater in a bowl. The heavy seeds sink to the bottom of the bowl and the pity membrane floats. You just remove the white membrane and strain the water off the arils. I have to admit, the results are worth the work. Yum.
Nutritionally pomegranates are considered a “super food” because they are a concentrated source of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Just 1/2 a medium pomegranate gives you 130 calories, 6 grams of fiber and 25% of your daily Vitamin C needs. They also have some B vitamins and potassium.
This is a time of year to buy fresh pomegranates. They are in season September through February.
What can you do with pomegranates? Once you’ve tried them, the ideas are endless.
• Eat alone as a fruit
• Add to cereal or oatmeal
• Mix with yogurt
• Make into a smoothie
• Combine with sweet and spicy peppers and cilantro to make salsa to eat with meats, shrimp or fish
• Add to chicken salad
• They add a sweet crunch when sprinkled on green salad
• Use pomegranate arils in our Red Quinoa and Berry Salad

Introduce your kids to pomegranates, too. They might enjoy the adventure of seeding and tasting this unique fruit. Kids tend to like new things when they can help prepare them.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Here is a beautiful arrangement of winter fruits with pomegranate, persimmon, and grapes.

 

 

Holiday MyPlate

As a special holiday bonus, I want to offer you the wonderful MyPlate handout that accompanies the Holiday MyPlate poster. If you like what you see, it’s not too late to pick up some last minute-holiday resources in the Nutrition Education Store — now’s the perfect time to prepare for those New Year’s resolutions…

Holiday times are here! This means a lot more activity and disruption to regular meal and exercise patterns. The good news is that you can remember MyPlate’s most important message to lower calories and eat healthier! Make half your plate fruits and veggies.

Here is how to adopt that message during the crazy holiday rush:

#1. Fill appetizer plates halfway with vegetables.

Look at the savings:

Plate 1: 546 calories

  • 4 mini quiche: 240
  • 2 slices cheddar cheese: 226
  • 5 crackers: 80 calories

Plate 2: 145 calories

  • 1 cup carrots and celery 25
  • 2 mini quiche: 120

Visualize a plate before you eat snacks (and bring your snacks!).

Are you zooming through the mall and tempted by large pretzels, cookies, and cinnamon rolls? They smell great and offer holiday spirit except they are really bad news for your waist. We have become oblivious to lare sizes because they are everywhere. Picture that item on a dinner plate. Does a cinnamon roll or pretzel likely take up a whole plate? That is too much! Bring an apple in your bag or choose a healthier item from the food court.

#2. Fill dessert plates halfway with fruit.

Instead of filling up your plate with pie, cake, brownies, and cookies, fill it up with fruit and leave room for a small slice or piece of one favorite treat.

Consider the savings:

Plate 1: 900 calories

  • Pecan pie slice: 500
  • 1 butter cookie: 200
  • Peppermint brownie: 200

Plate 2: 145 calories

  • 1 cup fresh fruit: 90
  • 1 cookie or 1/2 of a pie slice: 200 calories

Hint: bring a beautiful fresh fruit salad or bowl of fruit so you can have this option.

#3. Make a healthy plate for lunch and dinner.

No matter where you eat, using the MyPlate method of portion control can help you lower calories.

  • 1 big bowl of pasta with meatballs: 900 calories
  • MyPlate method: 1/4 pasta, 1/4 meatball, and 1/2 veggies = 400 calories

Make MyPlate at home, when you eat out, and when you are a guest somewhere else. It works in the cafeteria, the food court, the drive through and office parties!

#4. Eat a healthy snack plate with fruits and veggies before going to a party.

Okay so we realize it is not always easy to eat MyPlate at someone else’s house or the office party. So here is one more strategy. Eat your MyPlate fruits and veggies before you go out. Eat a small salad and a piece of fruit — that way when you go somewhere you can have a smaller serving of what they are offering and you won’t arrive starved only to fill up on a whole plate of fried chicken or fatty roast beef and fritters.

Will this be helpful for you or your clients? If so, don’t miss the free PDF handout available below. Normally it’s exclusive for people who buy the Holiday MyPlate poster, but I want to make an exception today…

Holiday MyPlate

Food News: Potassium and Your Health

Ask anyone to name a source of potassium and inevitably they’ll say “bananas.” Yet if you ask that same person why we need potassium, you might find less of a definitive answer.

In fact, few can answer that question.

Potassium is a mineral that’s not only found in bananas, but also citrus fruit, green leafy vegetables, yogurt, beans, whole grains, and sweet potatoes. Researchers suggest that it’s wise for people to increase the amount of potassium in their eating patterns, since potassium can help lower blood pressure, regardless of sodium intake.

Let’s take a closer look at some of that research…

Dr. Alicia McDonough, a professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), evaluated the diets of several populations and found that higher potassium intakes were associated with lower blood pressure, no matter what the sodium intake was. Her review included a combination of interventional and molecular studies evaluating the effects of dietary potassium and sodium on high blood pressure in various populations. During this review, she found that the kidneys get rid of more salt and water when dietary potassium intake is high. McDonough likens high potassium intake to taking a diuretic or water pill.

Unfortunately, a typical American diet tends to be higher in processed foods, which in turn tend to be high in salt content and low in potassium. One of the most cost-effective strategies to reduce blood pressure is to cut back on salt. Improved consumer education regarding salt, changes in processed food, and reduced consumption of high sodium foods should be implemented to this effect.

Why?

Let’s explore some more data.

Finland and the UK were first to start salt reduction programs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Europeans consume an average of 7-18 grams of salt per day, which is far above the suggested limit of 6 grams per day, which contains 2400 mg sodium. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggested that adults consume 4.7 grams of potassium daily to reduce blood pressure, reduce the impact of high sodium intake, and slash the risk of bone loss and kidney disease. Dr. McDonough notes that consuming just ¾ cups of dried beans daily can help individuals reach half of their potassium goal.

Here are more ways to obtain more potassium:

  • Eat an orange or banana daily.
  • Include green leafy vegetables daily. Think broccoli, spinach, or kale.
  • Snack on unsalted nuts.
  • Add an avocado to your salad or sandwich.
  • Choose dark orange fruits and vegetables like melon and sweet potatoes.
  • Enjoy kiwi, mango, or papaya regularly.

By Lisa Andrews, MED, RD, LD

Reference:

Alicia A. McDonough, Luciana C. Veiras, Claire A. Guevara, Donna L. Ralph, Cardiovascular benefits associated with higher dietary K vs. lower dietary Na evidence from population and mechanistic studies.  American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. Apr 4, 2017, E348-E356

WHO Salt Facts http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs393/en/

Do You Have to Drink Green to Eat Clean?

Green drinks and clean eating are all the rage, but what exactly is “clean eating?”

Margaret McCartney, GP, notes in the British Medical Journal,

“The command to eat cleanly implies that everyone else is filthy, being careless with their bodies and lives. It comes with promises of energy boosts, glowing skin, spirituality, purity, and possibly immortality. But this nonsense is all based on a loose interpretation of facts and a desire to make the pursuit of well-being an obsessive, full-time occupation.”

Let’s also add that there isn’t a single definition of clean eating that everyone agrees with. Here are a few examples…

  • At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.  Fitness Magazine
  • It used to imply eating lots of whole, real foods — veggies and fruit, whole grains, animal and plant-based protein, nuts, seeds, and oils. It also meant that what you eat should be as close to nature as possible — minimally processed, not packaged or originating from a factory. Good Housekeeping
  • The soul of eating clean is consuming food the way nature delivered it, or as close to it as possible. It is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life — one meal at a time. Clean Eating Magazine
  • Eating clean is simply the practice of avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your diet on whole foods. Eating Clean for Dummies Cheat Sheet

Some clean eating programs ban gluten, dairy, sugar, any food that’s not organic, or any food that isn’t sourced locally. What starts off sounding like a simple concept can get buried in an overwhelming list of food don’ts – without any science to back it up.

It’s clear from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that eating plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy, protein foods, and more healthful types of fat while limiting added sugars, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium will result in a healthful eating pattern. Clean eating and green drinks aren’t mentioned.

How do you define a processed food?

While we probably all agree that Twinkies or frozen meals are processed, what about bread? Do you have to make your own bread to avoid processed foods? Do you have to mill your own flour? We most likely think of fresh fruit as fitting into the clean eating concept, but what if that fruit is shipped to my home in Arizona from China? It’s easy to overthink clean eating to the point where we throw up our hands and head to the nearest fast-food drive-through.

Here’s our take on clean eating: read the list of ingredients, and choose foods where you can visualize each of the ingredients. The Triscuits cracker label states: whole grain wheat, vegetable oil (soybean or canola oil), sea salt; while the Carr’s Rosemary Cracker label lists: enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate <Vitamin B1>, riboflavin <Vitamin B2>, folic acid), vegetable oil (sunflower, olive, canola and palm kernel oil), leavening (yeast, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), contains two percent or less of dextrose, salt, maltodextrin, rosemary, spices, dried garlic, malt extract, onion powder, sugar, whey, natural flavor, and soy lecithin.

Which cracker contains ingredients you can visualize?

Now, if you relate to Sam I Am from Dr. Seuss and don’t like to drink anything green, does that mean that you’re missing vital nutrients? I’m convinced the green smoothie/juice craze was started by companies who make super blenders like Vitamix as a way to market their products. Before juicing became a health fad, we either ate vegetables raw in salads or cooked, drank fruit or vegetable juice, and ate fruit. While eating plenty of vegetables is of course an important component of a healthful eating pattern, you don’t have to drink green juice to get the health benefits of vegetables. Choose a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for optimum nutrients. Red, purple, blue, white, brown, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables are important sources of phytochemicals that are crucial to good health. Stick to green veggies only, and you’re missing out on essential nutrients.

If you enjoy making your own vegetable/fruit juices or smoothies, use these tips:

  1. Choose plain, unflavored Greek yogurt for an excellent protein source without added sugar.
  2. Use ½ – 1 cup total fruit, choosing a variety of colors of fruit and incorporating fresh, frozen, or fruit canned in its own juice.
  3. Toss in 2-3 times the amount of vegetables as fruit. For example, if you use ½ cup fruit, use 1-1 and 1/2 cups vegetables. Vary the colors of vegetables for the most nutrients.

If you’d rather purchase juices or smoothies, follow these recommendations:

  1. Read the list of ingredients to make sure you can visualize each ingredient and that you’re purchasing a beverage made from whole foods.
  2. Avoid juices/smoothies with added sugar, even from healthier-sounding sweeteners such as brown rice syrup, raw cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, etc. The fruit in the juice/smoothie will provide all the sweetness you need without added sugar.
  3. Note the number of calories per serving – you might be surprised! 1 cup of 100% fruit juice has about 100 calories, and 1 cup of tomato juice has about 40 calories.

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, CPT, CHWC

References:

Margaret McCartney:  Clean eating and the cult of healthism. BMJ2016; 354:i4095

Jocelyn Voo. The Complete Crash Course on Clean Eating. Fitness Magazine. http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/plans/diets/clean-eating/ Accessed 3-20-17

Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN. Why Clean Eating is Total BS. http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/a37595/what-is-clean-eating/ 3-29-2016. Accessed 3-20-17

What is Clean Eating? Clean Eating Magazine. http://www.cleaneatingmag.com/clean-diet/what-is-clean-eating 4-29-13. Accessed 3-20-17.

Eating Clean for Dummies Cheat Sheet, from Eating Clean for Dummies, 2nd edition. http://www.dummies.com/food-drink/special-diets/eating-clean-for-dummies-cheat-sheet/ Accessed 3-20-17.

Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/executive-summary/ Accessed 3-30-17

Eat a Colorful Variety Everyday. Fruit & Veggies More Matters. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/eat-a-colorful-variety-of-fruits-and-vegetables Accessed 3-30-17

Top 10 Foods for Better Health

A new study out of Boston suggests that focusing on 10 specific foods in your diet may cut the risk of premature death from diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease by almost half.

The author of the study, Renata Micha from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University says that about 45% of US deaths in 2012 could be traced to eating too little or too much of certain foods. Her study draws information from previous research done using National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys from 1999 to 2002 and 2009 to 2012. The researchers used food diaries of participants and found that 318,656 deaths out of 702,308 from stroke, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes were based on people eating too much or too little of the following 10 foods or food elements…

Too Much:

  • Sodium
  • Unprocessed red meat
  • Processed red meat (sausage, bacon, hot dogs)
  • Soybean and corn oil
  • Sugar-sweetened drinks

Too Little:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Seafood with omega-3 fatty acids

For example, consuming too much sodium was linked with 66,508 deaths. Poor nut and seed intake was associated with 59,374 deaths. Processed read meat intake was associated with 57,766 deaths, while 54,626 deaths were linked with inadequate fatty fish intake. Minimal vegetable and fruit intake was linked to 53,410 and 52,547 deaths, respectively. Sugar-sweetened drinks were tied to 51,695 deaths.

Demographics also made a difference. For example, men and women fared differently in the study. Women were less likely than men to die from poor diets and younger people were at higher risk than older individuals. Hispanics and blacks had higher risk than whites, and individuals with less education were at higher risk than more educated people.

Deaths from cardiovascular disease decreased by 25% between the two survey periods because of improvements in dietary habits such as eating more polyunsaturated fats, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and fewer sugar-sweetened drinks.

Consumers can reduce their risk for chronic disease by adopting one dietary habit at a time (such as eating fatty fish twice per week or choosing water over sweetened beverages) and then moving on to another positive habit once they’ve mastered the first. This helps build confidence and motivate people to continue building healthful eating patterns to reduce their risk of chronic disease.

By Lisa Andrews, MED, RD, LD

References:

  1. Micha, Renata, PhD, Penalvo Jose, PhD, Cudhea PhD, et. al. Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States. JAMA. 2017;317(9):912-924
  2. Mueller, Noel T., PhD, MPH, Appel, Lawrence J. Attributing Death to Diet Precision Counts. JAMA. 2017;317(9):908-909.

Boost Spring Fruit and Vegetable Consumption with Greens!

Recently I presented my spring portfolio to my photography class, and it got me thinking about helping your audience eat more spring fruits and vegetables.

After all, what could be more enticing than spring produce?

Here’s the artist statement that I submitted for my photos.

Spring beckons flora to burst forth from the earth. In the context of California farmers’ markets, spring brings new and bright greens, fresh young tubers, and juicy citrus fruits.

This photography exhibition celebrates the unique season that transitions us from winter to summer. The produce you see in the photos comes from local farmers who sell in community markets, and the pictures are designed to inspire people to choose locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

In the farmers’ markets, farmers become entrepreneurs while buyers gain access to fresh and nutritious foods — a community comes together. Accompanying the artistic representation of spring’s seasonal produce is a tribute to the farmers who grew it.

The offerings of a farmers’ market change each week and month as the seasons ebb and flow. This is but a moment in time during one season’s passage, and I hope you enjoy the beauty of spring.

And here’s a collection of engaging images of tasty spring foods.

These images would be fantastic in a display or email blast, or even as decoration for a spring vegetable cooking demonstration.

And speaking of cooking, to help inspire your audience to eat more spring produce, I’d like to share this recipe for a bright kale salad. This is a great way to present spring to your clients and help them focus on fresh and tender greens.

Kale is the Star Salad
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 6 cups raw baby kale
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup shredded radishes
  • 1 cup diced apples
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons light poppy seed dressing

Directions:

  1. Remove the stems from the lacinato kale and rinse well. Place the undried lacinato kale in a covered container and steam lightly in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The color will intensify and the leaves will be crisp tender.
  2. Place the lacinato leaves on the plate as pictured.
  3. Toss the baby kale with the olive oil and lemon juice. Put it on a plate and top with the radishes and apples.
  4. Drizzle a thin ribbon of poppy seed dressing over the greens and add the black sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information:

  • Serves 4. Each serving contains 157 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 213 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, 5 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar, and 6 g protein.
  • Each serving has 464% DV vitamin A, 320% DV vitamin C, 23% DV calcium, and 16% DV iron.

Did You Know?

  • Kale is high in many different nutrients. It has tons of antioxidants, which protect your cells from free radical damage.
  • One cup of chopped kale has more vitamin C than an orange. A single serving of this salad has 320% of your daily value of vitamin C.
  • Kale plants don’t die after the first frost — they get sweeter! Kale is one of the heartiest leafy greens around and is grown all over the world.
  • Kale is a good source of fiber, manganese, and copper, all of which are key to good health!

And here’s a PDF copy of the recipe handout that you can use however you’d like!

Fruit: Nature’s Fast Food

I’ve got a fun new poster in the store, and today I want to share a little bit about it with you!

First things first, here’s my latest creation:

I was inspired by the fresh produce available last summer at one of my local markets, so when I got home I couldn’t resist setting up a quick still life to highlight these tasty stone fruits at their peak.

Imagine my surprise when this print won 1st place in the Open Print category of the 2016 Annual Print Competition at the Palo Alto Camera Club. Ron Herman was the judge, and I was completely floored by his decision.

Soon after this picture won, I decided to feature it in my gallery showing this past winter. The showing was titled “A Visual Feast” and took place at the Avenue 25 Gallery in San Mateo California. In fact, if you look closely, you can see this photo hanging with a few other favorites in the picture below.*

I was so proud of this original photo that I decided to turn it into a poster. But what to call it?

I wanted to steer clear of additional artistic commentary and let the image speak for itself, so I focused my brainstorming on key health lessons and nutrition topics. Then, out of the blue, it hit me. Fruit is nature’s fast food! I often grab a peach or a handful of cherries on my way out the door or to snack on as I work at my desk, and I realized that these snacking habits had — over time — gradually replaced my reliance on fast food. I’m sure that this change in my routine was great news for my health, and so now I want to share that epiphany with your clients in order to encourage them to also change their habits.

And that’s how this poster came to be. How will you use it?

* This image is copyright 2017 by Len Cook @expressionfood.com

And here are some other resources that can help make your life easier…

Keeping Fruits and Vegetables Safe to Eat

Here’s a quick food safety question for you: which of these foods needs to be refrigerated for best food safety?

  • Cut watermelon
  • Washed and cut leafy greens
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Freshly-cut cantaloupe cubes
  • Fruit salad

If you answered ALL of them, then you would be correct.

While many people don’t consider these items risky — after all, we often leave whole fruits and vegetables at room temperature for storage or to ripen further — once cut, all fruits and vegetables need to be refrigerated for safety.

Once a fruit or vegetable has been cut, the barrier to the outside world has been broken and the plant’s natural defenses have been compromised. This opens the food up to the environment. Plus, the moisture and natural sugars in fruits and vegetables help create a great place for bacteria to grow. Refrigerator temperatures, on the other hand, can help slow this development of bacteria.

Other foods that are quite often forgotten are things like smoothies and juices. These drinks should be consumed within two hours or refrigerated. Just like with cut fruit, with smoothies and juices you’ve disrupted the cell structure by blending or squeezing, which in turn makes them more susceptible to bacteria development.

Another way to help prevent bacteria growth on fruits and vegetables is to wash them carefully — even if you’re not going to eat the outside. There could be bacteria on the skin or rind and it can be dragged across the moist flesh of the food during your preparation. This additional bacteria on the inside of the food can just add to potential problems if left at room temperature.

Always remember to wash your hands, countertops, and cutting boards before and after cutting fresh fruits and vegetables. Take care to avoid cross-contamination with raw meats, poultry, and seafood.

The same caution should be taken with cooked fruits and vegetables.  Once they’ve been heated, the cell structure has been broken down, making it an ideal setting for pathogen development.

Here’s the key take-home message: Once cut, cleaned, peeled, chopped, blended, or cooked, all fruits and vegetables should NOT be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Refrigerate them for safety.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

The Nutrition Month preparation fun continues in the Nutrition Education Store! Check out these great materials…