Watermelons are nutritious and help to keep you hydrated.
Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District
We tend to think of watermelon as a summer fruit and that is because in Florida, you can find watermelons growing from late spring through mid-summer. “Fresh From Florida” watermelons are available in stores and roadside markets from April through July. Time is running out this summer to have a fresh Florida watermelon, so be sure to get them soon.
Why is watermelon such a popular fruit? One, it is in high abundance during the summer and can be found in most stores. Watermelon also tends to appeal to those with a “sweet tooth,” but it’s still healthy. Red watermelon is a good source of lycopene, which gives watermelon its color (and tomatoes, too). Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps protect the body against heart disease, inflammation, and some cancers.
Watermelon also is a good source of vitamin C and contains vitamin A. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. People also are exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun. The body also needs vitamin C to make collagen, a protein required to help wounds heal. In addition, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly.
Probably most impressive is that watermelon is fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free, so we all should feel good about eating it. In addition, as the summer heat continues to increase, we need to drink more water to stay hydrated. Well, watermelon is 92% water, so eating it is an additional way to hydrate. In fact, early explorers used watermelons as canteens.
Here is a technique to know you have chosen a ripe watermelon. Ripe watermelons have a yellow or cream-yellow “ground spot” where the melon rested on the soil. If this spot is green or white, the watermelon probably is not ripe. In addition, once you have selected a ripe melon, a whole watermelon will last in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Before cutting your watermelon, be sure to wipe it with a clean cloth and light, soapy water and then rinse it off. This will prevent you from dragging any bacteria, etc. on the skin through the fruit as you slice it. Once cut, the melon should be kept refrigerated and covered with plastic wrap. If the watermelon flavor is not quite what you expected, you can enhance the flavor by adding a squeeze of lemon juice, honey, or chopped mint.
Be sure to excite your taste buds this summer by biting into a cold, sweet, juicy slice of watermelon. Feel confident in selecting your ripe watermelon and enjoy it, knowing you have made a healthy choice in your food selection.
A Few Fun Facts: (www.freshfromflorida.com/farmtoschool)
- Watermelon seeds are a good source of healthy fats and protein, which help your muscles grow.
- Florida leads the United States in watermelon production.
- Watermelons have been in production since around 2000 BCE.
- Seedless watermelons have been growing in the United States for over 40 years.
- Some countries, like Japan, grow square watermelons.
- Watermelons can have up to a thousand seeds, which can be black or white.
- As it matures, the watermelon’s insides transform from white to red or pink.
- You can eat the crunchy rind and seeds of a watermelon.
- According to John Mariani’s The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, the word “watermelon” first appeared in English dictionaries in 1615.
- Watermelon is the most consumed melon in the United States.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Fresh From Florida
Florida Farm to School
Living Healthy in Florida
Always supervise children closely around water.
Photo credit: Marie Arick
Summer is here! As the long, hot days of summer move forward there are many things to consider when it comes to children and water safety. Each summer we hear of tragic incidents of children drowning in pools, spas, and other bodies of water. These tragedies may be avoided by following a few simple tips to keep your child safe while letting them enjoy their summer break.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the agency charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. In addition to Pool and Spa Safety, the CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. CPSC launched the campaign, PoolSafely.gov, which provides Pool Safely: Simple Steps to Save Lives, a national public education campaign to reduce childhood drownings, submersion injuries and entrapments. Review these tips below.
Tips from PoolSafely.gov and CPSC:
- Never leave a child unattended in or near water.
It is recommended to designate an official “Water Watcher”, this is an adult assigned with supervising the children in the water. This should be their only task – they should not be reading, texting or playing games on their phone. Have a phone close by at all times, in case you need to call for help, and if a child is missing, check the pool first. Even when a lifeguard is present, parents and caregivers should still take the responsibility of being a designated “Water Watcher”. When the lifeguard chair is empty, the other lifeguards may not be able to see the entire pool and when lifeguards are sitting in low chairs; other people in the pool can block their view.
- Teach children how to swim.
Swimming is fun, great exercise and it is a lifesaving skill, so why would you not instill this skill in your child? Be sure to enroll children in swimming lessons – the earlier the better. A few swimming lessons may just save their life.
- Teach children to stay away from pool drains.
Show your children where the pool drain is located and remind them of the dangers of those drains. Remind them not to play or swim near drains or suction outlets, especially in spas and shallow pools, and never enter a pool or spa that has a loose, broken or missing drain cover. Sadly, children’s hair, limbs, jewelry or bathing suits, etc. can get stuck in a drain or suction opening. When enjoying time in a spa, be sure to locate the emergency vacuum shutoff before getting in the water.
- Ensure all pools and spas – both in your backyard and any public pool you may visit – have compliant drain covers.
The powerful suction from a pool or spa drain can even trap an adult, let alone a child. The Pool and Spa Safety Act is named after Virginia Graeme Baker, a child that tragically died from drowning due to a suction entrapment from a faulty drain cover. Do to this act, it is now required by law that all public pools and spas must have drain grates or covers that meet safety standards to avoid incidents like the one that took Graeme’s life.
- Install proper barriers, covers and alarms on and around your pool and spa.
One of the biggest dangers with pools or spas is when they are left open without any proper fences, barriers, alarms and covers. Each of these can be lifesaving devices. A fence of at least four feet in height should surround the pool or spa on all sides and should not be made of a climbable material. The pool should only be accessible through a self-closing, self-latching gate. Teach children to never climb over a pool gate or fence. Always remove portable pool ladders when not in use, just so your child is not enticed to enter the water. It is also highly recommended to install a door alarm from the house to the pool area, and keep pool and spa covers in working order.
- Know how to perform CPR on children and adults.
CPR can be the reason a drowning victim survives. With all of the possible locations of CPR trainings, why not get CPR certified as an extra precaution in case there is a water emergency? CPR classes are available through many hospitals, community centers, or by contacting your local American Red Cross. Once certified, be sure to keep the certification up to date.
- Finally, take the Pledge!
Before heading to the water with your family, remember to take the Pool Safely Pledge. This online call to action is a reminder to stay safer around the water. This pledge for you and your child can be found at https://www.poolsafely.gov/pledge/. The pledge is supported by CPSC and the PoolSafely.gov initiative and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelp along with over 60,000 other pledge takers. Parents, you can also download coloring sheets and other fun PoolSafely.gov child friendly apps and songs.
With the large variety of water related summer activities available it does leave a chance for risky incidents. Some work and preparation ahead of time will make for a less anxious and more fun-filled summer. Planning for risk will lessen the high-risk stakes and make sure everyone is prepared in case of an emergency. So remember, Simple Steps Save Lives. Enjoy a safe, fun, and water filled time this summer!
Resources: For more information be sure to visit Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives – https://www.poolsafely.gov
Based on information provided by the American Frozen Food Institute, on average, 40% of all food in the United States goes uneaten and wasted, which is an annual loss of $165 million. Fresh fruit and vegetable waste makes up nearly one-third of this number. With these discouraging numbers and financial losses, how can the frozen food industry help to solve this problem? Frozen food and beverage companies work hard to create the safest and best freezing techniques to keep food safe by preventing microorganisms from growing and by slowing down the enzyme activity that causes food to spoil. Modern freezing techniques have been designed to preserve food at its peak freshness and nutrient content. Frozen food makers continue to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to keep America’s food supply the safest in the world.
Freezing means less wasted food and easier access to well-balanced, portion-controlled nutritious foods during every season and in every community. Many times, frozen foods cost less per serving, but most importantly, they have a longer shelf life than fresh or refrigerated foods.
How do frozen foods play such an integral part in the well-balanced, nutritious diets of Americans? The frozen food aisle offers a large variety of vegetables, fruits, and other prepared foods at reasonable prices year ’round. Freezing reduces the need for additives and preservatives. Frozen foods also provide nutritious options that fit into all of the food groups suggested by Choose MyPlate.gov (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy). They also are a sensible choice when trying to control calories and fat, sugar, saturated fat, and sodium intake. In addition, unused products can be placed back in the freezer for later use.
If you have concerns about frozen foods, it’s time to rethink them. Let’s BUST those crazy frozen food myths swirling around out there!!!
FROZEN FOOD MYTHS VS. FACTS
MYTH: FROZEN FRUITS AND VEGGIES AREN’T AS NUTRITIOUS AS FRESH
FACT: Recent studies found there is no difference in nutrition between frozen and fresh produce.
MYTH: FROZEN FOODS ARE READY TO EAT
FACT: Frozen foods are ready to cook, not ready to eat. As their name suggests, ready-to-cook foods must be cooked or baked according to package instructions.
MYTH: FROZEN MEALS DON’T USE REAL INGREDIENTS
FACT: The freezer aisles of your supermarket are filled with meals made with the highest quality ingredients and prepared the way you would prepare them (if you had the time).
MYTH: FROZEN MEALS AREN’T ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
FACT: Actually, frozen foods minimize the amount of spoiled food we throw away because they are already portioned out, so we can take what we need and save the rest.
MYTH: FROZEN MEALS ARE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN RESTAURANT TAKE-OUT MEALS
FACT: Restaurant-inspired entrees like seafood scampi, sesame chicken, and Monterey chicken cost under $4 each. You do the math.
MYTH: FROZEN MEALS ARE NOT A GOOD CHOICE FOR HEALTH-CONSCIOUS CONSUMERS
FACT: “Better-for-you” options are available in the frozen food aisle to make it easier for consumers to control intake of calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium.
For more information on the frozen food and beverage industry, please visit www.affi.org.
For more information on incorporating frozen foods into your healthy lifestyle, please visit: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs186.
Make Halloween a fun and safe night for children and adults alike.
From candy to pumpkins to the costumes, Halloween is a fun-filled time for kids and adults alike. However, it can pose dangers. To help make this year’s trick-or-treat a safe and fun time, follow these simple safety tips compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure shoes fit well and costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flames.
Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. The makeup should be tested on a small patch of skin ahead of time to ensure there are no unpleasant allergies on the big night.
When shopping for costumes, wigs, and accessories, look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are “flame resistant.”
If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long. A child may be easily hurt by the accessories if he/she stumbles or trips.
Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
Review with children how to call 911 if they ever have an emergency or become lost.
PUMPKIN CARVING TIME:
Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then adults can do the cutting.
Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.
To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes, and lawn decorations.
Adults should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
Wet leaves and debris should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
Restrain pets so they do not jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
A responsible adult should always accompany young children during their neighborhood trick-or-treating.
Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and adults.
If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or-Treaters to:
- Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
- Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
- Carry a cellphone for quick communication.
- Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
- If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
- Never cut across yards or use alleys.
- Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out of driveways.
- Do not assume the right of way. Motorists may have a hard time seeing Trick-or-Treaters.
- Just because one car stops does not mean others will!
- Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.
HEALTHY HALLOWEEN TIPS:
A good, healthy dinner prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage children from filling up on Halloween treats.
Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books, stickers, or pens and pencils.
Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
Try to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween to prevent overindulging, which will lead to a stomachache and ruin the night’s fun.
Make sure the Halloween night is fun and safe with the suggested tips above. These tips will help guarantee you all a ghoulishly good time.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Most of us are willing to go to the doctor or the dentist, which are both part of taking care of our health. However, do you go to the eye doctor? If not, you definitely should add it to your healthy lifestyle regime. Eye exams at every age and stage of life can help you keep your vision strong. August is National Eye Exam month; this is the perfect reminder to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.
The Vision Council of America reports that 12.2 million Americans require some sort of vision correction, but do not use any. Nearly 50% of parents with children under 12 have never taken their children to an eye-care professional.
Many people think their eyesight is just fine, but then they get that first pair of glasses or contact lenses and the world becomes much clearer – everything from fine print to street signs. Improving and/or maintaining your eyesight is important – about 11 million Americans over age 12 need vision correction, but that is just one of the reasons to get your eyes examined. Regular eye exams are also an important part of finding eye diseases early and preserving your vision.
Eye diseases are common and can go unnoticed for a long time. Some diseases have no symptoms at first. A comprehensive dilated eye exam by an optometrist (a medical professional with a focus on regular vision care who can prescribe eyeglasses and contacts) or ophthalmologist (a medical eye doctor with a focus on the complete eye health) is necessary to find eye diseases in the early stages when treatment to prevent vision loss is most effective. During the exam, visual acuity (sharpness), depth perception, eye alignment, and eye movement are tested. Eye drops are used to make your pupils larger so your eye doctor can see inside your eyes and check for signs of health problems.
How often should you have an eye exam?
- A child’s eyes should be checked regularly by an eye doctor or pediatrician. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends vision screening for all children at least once between age 3 and 5 years to detect amblyopia or risk factors for the disease. Amblyopia is when the vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly. The eye itself looks normal, but it is not being used normally because the brain is favoring the other eye. This condition is sometimes called lazy eye.
- People with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam every year.
- People with a family history of glaucoma should have an eye exam every year.
- Adults with good health should have an eye exam at least every 2 years.
Some people are at higher risk for glaucoma and should have a dilated eye exam every 1 to 2 years:
- African Americans, ages 40 years and older.
- Everyone older than age 60, especially Mexican Americans.
- People with a family history of glaucoma.
Early treatment is critically important to prevent some common eye diseases from causing permanent vision loss or blindness:
- Cataracts (clouding of the lens), the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.
- Diabetic retinopathy (causes damage to blood vessels in the back of the eye), the leading cause of blindness in American adults.
- Glaucoma (a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve).
- Age-related macular degeneration (gradual breakdown of light-sensitive tissue in the eye).
Other reasons to see your eye doctor: If you have any of the following eye problems, do not wait for your next appointment, schedule your eye appointment as soon as possible:
- Decreased vision
- Draining or redness of the eye
- Eye pain
- Double vision
- Floaters (tiny specks that appear to float before your eyes)
- Halos around lights
- Flashes of light.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 10 Tips to Protect Your Vision:
- Get a regular comprehensive dilated eye exam.
- Know your family’s eye health history.
- Eat right to protect your sight. You have heard that carrots are good for your eyes. But eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables—particularly dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, or collard greens—is important for keeping your eyes healthy, too.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities around the home. Protective eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specially designed to provide the correct protection.
- Be cool and wear your shades. Wear sunglasses that block out 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation (the sun’s rays).
- Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focusing on any one thing, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes can get fatigued. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This short exercise can help reduce eyestrain.
- Clean your hands and your contact lenses properly.
- Practice workplace eye safety.
- Quit smoking or never start.
Of the estimated 61 million US adults at high risk for vision loss, only half visited an eye doctor last year. Regular eye care can have a life-changing impact on preserving the vision of millions of people. Be sure to make your eye health a priority in your life. Healthy eyes lead to better vision and an overall better quality of life. Sources: Vision Council of America https://www.thevisioncouncil.org/ Center for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/