Market Adventures: Dragon Fruit

PitayaWhen I travel, I love to check out what the locals are eating.

One way to do this is by visiting grocery stores and farmers’ markets in different cities and countries. I especially enjoy looking at the unique fruits and vegetables that I don’t usually find near my home.

Here are a few photos from a market we visited in Spain. Do you know what the top picture features? Hint: it’s a fruit.

The answer is pitahaya, also known as pitaya. In the United States, it’s commonly called dragon Fruit, and at this market you could get one for a little over $6. There, these fruits are often sliced in half and sold with a spoon for an easy snack on the go. There were a couple varieties and all were beautiful — red ones with white or pink or even red flesh or a yellow variety that had white flesh.

And in case you were wondering, yes, I bought one. I was told that the ones with pink flesh were sweeter, but I didn’t get a chance to compare them. My purchase tasted like a combination of a melon and a kiwi, and the black seeds provided a nice crunch.

More Dragon FruitSo I decided to do a little research about this amazing fruit. Want to see what I found?

The sign at the Spanish market said that their fruit came from Vietnam. Dragon fruit is commercially grown in South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and Israel. Dragon fruit is technically a cactus and peels easily — like a banana. And just like with a banana, you don’t eat the skin.

Nutritionally, 3 ½ ounces of dragon fruit (about ½ of 1 fruit) contains 1 gram of fiber and 9 milligrams of vitamin C. That’s about 15% of the amount of vitamin C that’s recommended daily for women. Dragon fruit with pink or red flesh is also known its lycopene content. Like many other fruits, dragon fruit is low in calories.

When selecting a dragon fruit, choose one that you know is ripe. You can tell when it’s ripe because it will give a little when squeezed, like a ripe avocado or peach. If it’s firm, then it needs a few more days at room temperature to ripen. When ripe, dragon fruit should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within a week. Once cut, it should be refrigerated. Dragon fruit can be eaten alone, as part of a fruit salad, or juiced.

These certainly gave us nice taste memories from our trip.

Yellow Dragon FruitNow, am I suggesting that you go out and spend $6 for a piece of fruit every day? Not at all.

Instead, I like to encourage people to be adventurous with food. Go out on a limb and try something different every now and again. Everyone knows that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, but the ordinary bananas, apples, green beans, and broccoli can get boring. No wonder it’s hard for people to get the 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day that are recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you’re going to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, you’ll have to do something about variety. Occasionally, try something fun, like dragon fruit.

Oh, and if you’re a health educator, consider planning a group trip to a local grocery store. People can look for something that the other members of the group haven’t tried before. Purchasing and/or sharing some unique fruits and vegetables with your clients or students can expand horizons, and who knows, maybe it’ll get them to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Wouldn’t that be great?

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

And as a little bonus, here’s a free dragon fruit fact sheet, just for you!

Dragon Fruit

Remember, there are lots of great materials in the Nutrition Education Store!

Fruit and Vegetable Poster Set

Interactive MyPlate Shopping Presentation

Fruit Bulletin Board Kit

Scale Down Your Portions

Scale Down Your PortionsIt’s time for a dispatch from inside the Nutrition Education Store! Today I want to share a handout that — until right now — was only available to people who had purchased the Scale Down Your Portions poster. So here it is, in all its glory. How will you use your free copy?

Scale Down Your Portions!

How can you deal with oversized servings?

It can be hard to stop eating when there is a ton of delicious food to enjoy. A common answer to this problem is to ignore the rest of the food and only eat proper portions of each item. Sadly, that’s easier said than done.

Studies indicate that when people are offered larger portions of food, they tend to eat more of it. In one study, participants ate 30% more calories when offered the largest portion of an entrée, compared to what they ate when they were offered the smallest portion (Am J Clin Nutr 2002; 76(6): 1207-1213). When there is lots of food on your plate, it can skew your perception of what you’ve eaten and make it hard to stop eating.

It turns out that the best way to deal with portions is to scale them down. There are a bunch of different ways to scale down your portions — which will you try first?

Scale Down Tip #1: Read the Facts!

The Nutrition Facts labels on foods are treasure troves of information. You may be surprised at what constitutes a single serving, especially in things like bottled sodas and bags of chips. Get familiar with actual serving sizes and use the Nutrition Facts to calculate how many servings are in each container. When you can, pick up single-serving packs or use the Nutrition Facts label as a guide and make your own snack packs by portioning out proper servings into zip-lock bags and reusable bottles.

Scale Down Tip #2: Get Online!

Lots of restaurants and coffee shops have made their nutrition information available online. Check out the calorie, sodium, and fat content of your order before you head out the door and make sure that the portion size is reasonable. If it’s not, look for healthful alternatives. This will help you find balanced portions and skip servings that are way too big.

Scale Down Tip #3: Share!

If you want to get or make something that only comes in a large portion, share it! Whether you’re at a restaurant or a backyard barbecue, it can be easier than you think to share a large portion of food. And, after all, sharing is caring.

Scale Down Tip #4: Think Before You Drink!

Beverages with added sugar or fat need special attention when it comes to portion control. We found that small bottles of soda, tea, and juice drinks still contained more than 2 servings per bottle. So follow the first few tips and research exactly what is in that beverage that you’re about to enjoy. Then think twice before getting a jumbo size.

What do you think? If you like what you see, get your very own PDF copy of the Scale Down Your Portions handout, for free!

Scale Down Your Portions

And here are some more portion resources from the Nutrition Education Store! Remember, we’re here to help you look your very best, right now!

Take Control of Your Portions Poster

Eat Less! Portion Control DVD

Portion Control Handout

 

Looking for Healthy Meals

Healthy MealOkay, I’ve got a story for you today. My husband and I were recently eating lunch — I had made us each a quick salad with lettuce, apples, some thawed frozen berries, avocado, leftover grilled chicken and homemade balsamic vinaigrette. As we ate, my husband commented, “It’s amazing that you look in the refrigerator and see salad; when I look in the refrigerator I just see soda.”

That seems to capture a common sentiment in a nutshell. How do people plan menus and think about turning what’s available into a healthful meal? Is this something that’s intuitive or can it be learned?

For me it’s easy, because I love to cook and experiment with food. But what about people who really don’t like to prepare meals or don’t have these skills?

All home management experts say that planning meals ahead of time is the number one way to save time, have balanced meals, control the food budget, avoid food waste, and reduce trips to the grocery store. However, I’m realistic enough to know that most families don’t do this.

So, how can we, as health educators, make this easier for our clients?

Here are a few of my latest ideas…

  • Try planning just a few meals a week instead of setting up a program for all seven days. If this works, then perhaps you could develop a menu rotation.
  • Have everyone in the family contribute their menu ideas and meal likes and dislikes.
  • If other members of your family are just learning to cook, or don’t yet have a wide recipe repertoire, having menus posted can help them learn and develop their cooking and menu-planning skills.
  • Keep MyPlate in mind as you go. We all know the concept of trying to fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal, so now it’s time to put it into action. Remember to fill the other half with a lean protein and a whole grain, then add low-fat dairy on the side to round out the meal.
  • Post your planned menus. That way, everyone in the family knows what’s for dinner. This could help the first one home to get dinner started too!
  • Make sure that the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are stocked with the foods that you need for these menus. It’s especially important to have a variety of fruits and vegetables available for meals and snacks. After all, how can you fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables if there aren’t any fruits and vegetables in the house?

Try these tips and who knows? Maybe the next time your family looks into the fridge, they’ll see dinner!

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

Here’s a free PDF handout with a few of the top tips from today’s post…

Healthy Meals

Here are some more healthy meal resources, brought to you by the Nutrition Education Store!

Healthy Kitchen Poster Set

Learn to Cook Workbook

Heart Smart Cooking PowerPoint Presentation

Carrots!

Carrots!What should I do with 10 pounds of carrots?

Actually, the first question should be “Why do I have so many carrots?”

The short answer is because I’m frugal. Carrots were on my grocery list; I use carrots frequently and consider them a vegetable staple.  I can’t bear to spend $1 to $1.50 for a pound of carrots at the grocery store when I can get 10 pounds at our big box store for about $6. That’s just $.60 cents a pound — half the price, but a whole lot of carrots.

This large amount of carrots does cause a bit of a problem. Can I use them up while they’re still fresh?

Yes, I admit that there is a certain level of convenience in the bagged, ready-to-eat carrots. It’s no surprise that baby carrots are among the most popular items in the produce aisle, accounting for over 80% of all retail carrot sales.

RIMG4206One pound of carrots equals 3 to 3½ cups of peeled and sliced, chopped, or grated raw carrots. In case you’re counting, one 7-inch-long carrot has only 30 calories. A single cup of grated carrots has 45 calories. And boy, there are lots of nutrients packed into those calories! Few other vegetables or fruits contain as much carotene as carrots, which the body converts to vitamin A. Carrots are also a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.

But now, back to my 10 pounds of carrots.

Storage of this many carrots can pose a conundrum. It’s best to store carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, unwashed and uncut, until you’re ready to use them. Most references say that carrots will keep for at least two weeks this way. However, I think we’re more inclined to eat our vegetables if they’re ready to use — that’s why baby carrots and pre-cut carrots are so popular (and $2 a pound!). So I left some carrots uncut and sliced some others for easy snacking on the go.

Carrot HummusTo use up my bounty, I turned to the Food and Health Communications recipe files. If you’re ever in the same boat as me, may I recommend the following recipes? They’re great for carrots!

Anyway, I’ve done this before, and after a while my husband finally said, enough is enough, he can’t eat any more carrots. Which is fine, but what do I do with the few that are lingering in the crisper drawer?

Carrots for the FreezerThe answer: I chop or grate them and throw them in the freezer in 1 cup portions. The National Center for Home Food Preservation says that carrots should be blanched before freezing for the best quality and texture. Since I plan to use the frozen carrots in cooked foods, I don’t worry too much about this, but I do try to use them up sooner rather than later. I actually like to have this extra stash in the freezer, ready to go for soups and casseroles when I don’t have fresh carrots available.

I’ve said this many times, a bargain isn’t a bargain if some of it goes to waste. But, in this case, I keep trying to convince myself that even losing a few last carrots would be cheaper than buying fewer at the $1.50 per pound price.  I think I’m still ahead financially, but I admit, I had to work at it!

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

Here are a few more cooking and shopping resources from the Nutrition Education Store. We’re here to help you look your very best, right now.

Lighten Up Your Shopping Cart Poster

The Cooking Demo Book

Shop Smart for Diabetes PowerPoint

And here’s a handout that offers a great introduction to carrots, including their nutrient profile, how to cook with them, and how to store them. Enjoy!

Carrots

Sharol Cripe, RDN, LDN, has also sent in a fantastic carrot resource. Visit the Englewood Farmers’ Market homepage to see recipes for roasted carrots and carrots with a Moroccan twist!

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

I just can’t take a vacation from food safety. We recently took a wonderful trip to Europe, and like all good foodies, I had to check out the markets and grocery stores to get a feel for what the locals were buying and eating. At a fabulous market in Spain, I took these photos of a gentleman cutting a watermelon for display and sale.

Spanish Market

What’s wrong with this picture?

Cut Melon

Or this one?

There are several potential food safety concerns in just these two photos: Did the man wash his hands before cutting the melon? Was the outside of the melon washed before it was cut? Was the knife clean? What about the cleanliness of the surface? Did he store it on ice after it was cut? From what I observed, none of these precautions were taken in this particular situation.

Washing melons or other fresh fruit before cutting reduces bacteria that may be present on the surface. These bacteria could be from the soil in which the product grew, or perhaps on the hands of the person who picked it. They could also be on the hands of the shipper, or in this case, the market owner. Some people think that since you don’t eat the rind of a melon, it’s not necessary to wash it, but if the rind is not washed before cutting, any bacteria that might be on the rind could be transferred to the moist center of the fruit — where it could easily grow and multiply. I had similar concerns about the cutting surface and the knife (how many unwashed melons were cut with the same knife that morning?) Also, cut fruit should be refrigerated; it should have been placed on ice. Needless to say, we didn’t buy this melon.

While this photo was taken in Spain, I’m sure that that wasn’t the only market where food wasn’t treated as safely as it should have been.

This is one of those situations when the consumer needs to be alert and use caution. If you’re shopping at farmers’ markets or grocery stores that sell sectioned or fresh-cut fruit, make sure you choose a place that keeps food safety in mind. When you’re tempted to taste a sample or purchase something, look around and made sure that the person offering the sample or selling the item is using good food safety practices. These practices include: washing the produce before cutting it, wearing clean gloves, using a clean knife and keeping items cold as necessary.

Don’t take risks with food safety.

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

We’re here to help you look your very best, right now, so don’t miss these marvelous food safety resources from the Nutrition Education Store

Food Safety Poster

Food Safety PowerPoint and Handout Set

Healthy Kitchen Poster Set

And here’s the best part — a free food safety handout that you can share with your clients!

Market Safety

Inside Look: Fabulous Fruits and Veggies

Fabulous Fruits and VeggiesYou already know that September is Fruits and Veggies More Matters Month, but have you seen our new fruit and vegetable poster?

This is one of my favorites yet, and it offers a great way to promote healthful eating patterns. Fabulous Fruits and Veggies is perfect for offices, health fair displays, cooking demonstrations, cafeterias, schools, and more!

So how did this one come to be?

Here’s a sneak peek…

After seeing all the gorgeous fruits and vegetables at the Davis farmers’ markets, I knew that I had to feature their magnificent colors and textures in a new poster. I wanted to highlight the brightness and freshness of fruits and veggies, but I wasn’t quite sure how to start.

The answer lay in a collage.

I combined images of various fruits and vegetables, arranging them into bright patterns and stripes. And that’s when it hit me — fruits and veggies can take you up, up, and away! What better way to highlight that health and energy boost than with the colorful hot air balloons that so often dot the skies by my house.

I worked with my team of artists to create a picture of people setting off on hot air balloon adventures, adjusting and tweaking the picture until I got it just right.

Fabulous Fruits and Vegetables HandoutBut what to call the poster?

That’s where my editorial team came in. We did a few rounds of brainstorming, exploring titles like “Fuel Your Adventures with Fruits and Vegetables,” “Fruit and Vegetable Explorations,” and “Get and Fruit and Vegetable Boost,” but ultimately, we decided to keep it simple with “Fabulous Fruits and Veggies.”

And here comes the best part.

The handout.

My team and I decided that we wanted the free handout that accompanies this poster to feature lots of fun ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into a healthy eating pattern. Pretty great timing for Fruits and Veggies More Matters Month, huh? The best part is that you can get this handout, today! Simply click on the picture of the handout above and you can download your very own PDF copy, for free. Hooray!

And of course, if you like what you see, consider getting a print of this wonderful poster. It’s as engaging as it is versatile, and is sure to brighten up any space!

There are lots of great new resources in the Nutrition Education Store these days! Which one will make your life easier?

Fruit and Veggie Pens

Diabetes 101 Presentation

Exercise Poster

We’re here to help you look your very best, right now.

 

When in Greece

SantoriniMy husband and I recently went on a Mediterranean cruise. One of the stops was the beautiful volcanic island of Santorini. I’m sure you’d recognize the place if you saw the photos — it’s a beautiful location with stark white buildings and an occasional blue-roofed church dome overlooking the Aegean Sea. Like thousands of our fellow cruisers, we toured the island and took many photos.

I love visiting local grocery stores when I travel. I like it best if I can check out where the locals really shop — not a tourist attraction. I enjoy looking at the fresh fruits and vegetables, learning about what’s local and what’s in season. It’s also a treat to check out the refrigerated cases and packaged products. During this trip, I found Greek yogurt, pistachios, and olives alongside American foods like Oreos and Starbucks.
Greek store 2

Wanting to prolong our stay on the island and try a little local cuisine, we stopped at a restaurant that had all the pre-requisites — outdoor dining with a view of the ocean, local beer, and an appetizer menu. We ordered tzatziki dip accompanied by a basket of warm pita bread. When I asked the waiter about the ingredients, he said that it was only yogurt, garlic, and cucumbers. I think also tasted a little dill. The tzatziki was thick and rich, but also satisfying. I’m sure that the yogurt they used to make this was full-fat Greek strained yogurt.

Now that we’re home, I’ve recreated this appetizer.

Greek GroceryFirst, I did a lot of research. I found several brands of commercially-prepared tzatziki available in the dairy case. In checking the ingredient lists, I discovered that many contain a yogurt base and sour cream, along with cucumbers, vinegar, garlic, and dill. The nutrition facts vary by brand, but most contain around 40 calories, with 3 grams of fat for a 2 tablespoon serving.

Tzatziki is frequently used as the sauce on gyros, but it can also be a salad dressing, sauce for grilled meats or mild fish, or a dip. Instead of dill you can season tzatziki with mint or parsley.

After I learned about what was available, I asked Chef Judy, President and Founder of Food and Health Communications for an easy recipe for make-at-home tzatziki that is low in fat, but also high in flavor. Judy’s recipe uses low-fat or non-fat plain Greek yogurt and both dill and mint. You can experiment with how much seasoning you like. This recipe contains only 31 calories for ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) and one gram of fat per serving. Serve it by itself as a salad, or as a dip with whole-grain crackers, pita chips, or vegetable crudités.

Tzatziki DipTzatziki Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber, cut in half and sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

  1. Toss ingredients together.
  2. Chill until ready to serve.

Thanks, Judy, for helping to recreate these great memories in a healthful way!

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

Would you like to share this with your clients? Here’s a free handout with the recipe and a few fun tzatziki facts!

Tzatziki Dip

And remember, there’s always more in the Nutrition Education Store!

Mediterranean Diet PowerPoint and Handout Set

Complete School Lunch Poster Set

Recipe Card: Watermelon “Cake”

We are here to help you look your very best, right now.

Help Kids Eat More Vegetables

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “9 in 10 children didn’t eat enough vegetables in 2007-2010.”

Salad Kit for KidsThat is one sad statistic.

After all, eating a wide variety of vegetables is critical to good health. Take MyPlate’s advice, for example. “People who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases.” Plus, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans counsel people to “Increase vegetable and fruit intake” and “Eat a variety of vegetables.”

Getting enough vegetables is especially important for children. The CDC asserts “Healthy eating in childhood and adolescence is important for proper growth and development and can prevent health problems such as obesity, dental caries, iron deficiency, and osteoporosis.”

It’s time to turn things around and help kids get the vegetables they need.

Shopping Kit for KidsThat’s why we’ve recently added two new interactive resources to the Nutrition Education Store. These felt shopping and salad kits offer new ways for kids to engage with fruits and vegetables, encouraging healthful habits and a balanced diet.  Plus, research indicates that kids who play a role in choosing the healthful ingredients for a meal are more likely to eat it. Getting familiar with salad is one way to help increase fruit and vegetable intake among children. Shopping for food together is another.

But that’s not all! Today we’re offering a sneak peek into ways to help kids eat more vegetables. Check out the handouts below — you can get a free leader guide for fruit and vegetable activities for kids in kindergarten through 3rd grade, and then follow up with a free activity page for kids at the same age level. Check out the previews below, and if you like what you see, get your own salad or shopping kits today!

Salad Activity Ideas:

Activity #1 — Salad Taste Test: Fill a bowl with lettuce leaves and pass it around. Have each child taste a piece of lettuce and describe it. Repeat the taste test with other salad ingredients, then use the felt to show ways the ingredients can be combined into yummy salads. If you have the time and budget, offer real salad ingredients for kids to mix and match. Let them eat their creations.

Activity #2 — Fun Facts: Divide the kids into groups and give each a different felt ingredient. With younger kids, have each group think of something that makes that ingredient special. With older kids, have them research the health impact of that ingredient. Have each group present their findings and put their piece in the tray. At the end, present the tray to the kids — look at the great salad they can make together!

Salad Worksheet:

Salad Worksheet

If you like what you see, get the handouts for free! Here are PDF copies of the leader guide and activity page, just for you!

Salad Leader Guide

Salad WorksheetPS These would be perfect for National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, which is coming right up!

And here are more fruit and vegetable resources from the Nutrition Education Store. Remember, we’re here to help you look your very best…

Fruit and Vegetable Poster Set

Fruit and Vegetable Balloon Set

Color Your World with Food Banner

Food Safety: How Long Can I Keep That?

I think we all know the routine. When you go to the store, reach to the back of the cooler to get the coldest milk or the yogurt with the most recent date. This practice helps assure us that the refrigerated products we’re getting are the freshest possible and will last the longest once we get them home.

Best By DateI was watching a grocery store worker last week, and he was pulling all the dairy foods that were at or close to their sell-by dates. He was going to put the ones that were only close to the “sell by” date on sale.

Fresh refrigerated products like milk, meats, fish, and poultry are perishable and most have “sell by” dates. Stores must sell these products by the printed dates or discard them.

Packages frequently have words like “best by” or “use by” on them. Note that they don’t say “do not eat after this date. Those dates are provided by the food manufacturers as a way for you to judge the quality and freshness of the product. Putting these dates on packages is entirely at the discretion of the manufacturer. After all, they would like you to eat their food when it is at its best. This is not necessarily a food safety date.

Sell By Date“Sell by” dates should be taken seriously, especially with fresh items. Make an effort to use the foods close to this date. However, these “sell by” dates do not mean that the food in your refrigerator needs to be destroyed after this date.

Depending on how the product has been stored, the food may have become unsafe before the “use by” date. How many times have you had a carton of milk that went bad before the expiration date? If someone left it sitting out on the counter or if the milk sat in a hot car trunk for longer than you planned on the way home from the store, then that milk may actually go bad sooner.

Alternatively, the product may stay in good condition for long after the date on the package. Milk (if properly stored) will keep for 4-7 days beyond the “sell by” date. Yogurt makers assert that their yogurts will keep for roughly a week to 10 days after the “sell by” date has passed.

Use or Freeze ByThe best thing to do is to use these dates as a guide to the age of a product.

Here are some key points to remember, especially with perishable refrigerated items…

  • For the freshest product, buy the “youngest” products available.
  • Keep these foods refrigerated. Store coolers in your car to keep the food as cold as possible before it gets home.
  • Refrigerate the food immediately once you get home.
  • Freeze perishable foods if you’re unable to eat them within a reasonable amount of time.

Obviously if the food has an off odor, flavor or appearance, pitch it.

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

Here’s a free handout with the highlights from this post. Get your copy today!

Sell By Handout

And here are some more great resources for healthful shopping!

Interactive MyPlate Shopping Presentation

Shop Smart Poster

Supermarket DVD Presentation

We want you to look your best, so please let us know if there’s anything you need.

Avocados: Yea or Nay?

“They’re high in calories.”
“They’re high in fat.”
“But it’s a good fat.”

Those are all statements I frequently hear about the avocado.

What about you? Do you shy away from avocados because of the fat or calories? Or do you make them a part of your diet?

Today, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the humble avocado.

Pile of Goodness

An avocado is nutrient dense. Nutrient-dense foods provide substantial servings of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in proportion to the number of calories they contain. Although avocados are high in fat, most of that fat is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, avocados are loaded with dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, and folate. They’re also cholesterol- and sodium-free. One avocado contains about 700 milligrams of potassium. In fact, avocados have more potassium gram for gram than bananas! Furthermore, avocados are loaded with the phytochemicals that are thought to reduce the risk of some types of cancers and other chronic diseases.

So what about the calories?

The calories in an avocado are not messing around. Two tablespoons of mashed avocado (that’s 1/5 of the whole thing or about 1 oz) provide about 55 calories. So, if you eat a whole avocado, then you’re getting about 275 calories. That’s a lot of calories, especially if you’re on a calorie-restricted diet.

However, the key word is moderation.

A little avocado can add some real nutrition and variety to a meal. Plus, sometimes avocado can offer a nutrient-rich alternative to another less-healthful fat. Try slicing and spreading 2 tablespoons of avocado on your sandwich instead of mayo or butter. This will save you almost 40 calories! Yes, you get the fat, but it’s definitely a better-for-you fat than those other spreads. And you really can’t beat the flavor it adds.

Avocados for Everyone!

When buying avocados, pick fruits that have firm skins, but which yield to gentle pressure and have no soft spots. These are the kind of fruits that will ripen after they’re picked. Put unripe avocados in a paper bag at room temperature and they will ripen in the next 2-5 days. If you want them to ripen more quickly, add a ripe banana or apple to the bag. Why? These fruits give off a natural ethylene gas that helps to ripen the avocados. Once they’re ripe, use them right away. You can also put them in the refrigerator, where they will last for a couple days.

So, when you ask whether you should make avocados a part of your diet, I say yea!

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

Looking for more cooking and nutrition resources? Look no further! We’ve got you covered! We are here when you want to look your very best right now.

Drinks, Portion, Whole Grains, Fruit and Vegetables, and Nutrient Alphabet

Nutrition Poster Set

MyPlate Wristband

Real Food Grows Banner

You made it all the way to the end! For your persistence, please enjoy a brand-new free handout! It’s the perfect guide to avocados.

Avocado Handout