We are well into spring and summer is just around the corner, which brings with it a season full of fresh fruits and vegetables. June is national fruits and vegetables month, and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for fresh cherries, snap peas and peaches.
Vegetables and fruits are a great source of many nutrients our bodies need. Do you know if you are eating enough vegetables and fruits? Although everyone is different, MyPlate makes recommendations based on a 2,000 calorie diet. For adults, this means eating about 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables daily. Similarly, it is recommended adults eat about 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruits daily. Make vegetables and fruits the easy choice by putting them at eye-level in easy-to-reach places. Put the junk foods where they are hard to see or reach – or avoid having them around altogether! Here are some great ways to fit more fruits and vegetables into your diet:
• Replace the bowl of candy with a bowl of fruit. Fruit is a quick and easy snack.
• Have a fruit smoothie instead of ice cream.
• Add shredded or chopped vegetables to pasta, meatloaf or even scrambled eggs.
• Prepare snacks that contain fruits and vegetables ahead of time, that way you can grab and go.
• Add some vegetables to your sandwich.
• Add berries to your morning yogurt or cereal.
Fresh vegetables and fruits are not the only option or healthy choice. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious and sometimes more nutritious than fresh as long as they do not have added sugars or sauces. Frozen and canned will last longer than fresh and are easy to prepare. Frozen vegetables can be steamed in the microwave and ready to eat in under 10 minutes.
June holds another food recognition day. June 7 is World Food Safety Day. What is food safety and why is it important? Some people are at higher risk of foodborne illness, meaning they are more likely to get sick. Those at greater risk for food poisoning are adults aged 65 and older, children younger than 5 years, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women. If you are a part of one of these groups or you know someone who is, keep reading to learn how to reduce the risk of foodborne illness through handling fresh produce safely.
• Check produce for bruising and other damage. Make sure pre-cut produce is refrigerated or on ice.
• Remember to wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling produce.
• Rinse produce just before you are ready to use it. Use a produce brush to scrub firm-skinned produce under running water. Produce labeled as "washed" or "ready to eat" does not need to be washed. Do not use soap or bleach to wash produce; these products are not meant to be eaten.
• While at the store or while you are preparing it, keep produce separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
• Chill fresh produce that has been cut, peeled, or cooked to 40°F or below within two hours of preparing. Keep your refrigerator at or below 40°F.
• If in doubt, throw it out! As difficult as it is to throw away food, it is better off in the trash or compost pile than making someone sick. If produce that has been cut, peeled or cooked is not refrigerated to 40°F or below within two hours, throw it out. If the weather is hot, think 90°F or above, prepared produce that is not refrigerated to 40°F or below within one hour should be thrown out. If any produce has touched raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, throw it out! Also, remove and dispose of all bruised and damaged pieces of the produce before cooking or eating.
So go out and enjoy those fresh fruits and vegetables, but do so safely. Curious about what is currently in season? The Ohio Farm Bureau has a great website to find out. Go to ofbf.org/whats-in-season to find the growing season for many fruits and vegetables.
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.