Spring has arrived. It is fresh produce season. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Select a rainbow of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables to enhance your diet.
Keep It Fresh
Photo Source: UF/IFAS
There is a bountiful supply of fruits and vegetables during the Spring and Summer months. Grocery stores, famers markets, and backyard gardens abound with abundant supply of fresh produce.
Recently fresh produce has been linked to various outbreaks of foodborne illness. These problems are becoming more common and it is important as a consumer to know how to handle fresh produce safely.
Safe Produce Handling Tips
Purchase vegetables and fruits that look and smell fresh. Purchase only the amount you will use in a few days. Most vegetables and fruits with the exception of apples, potatoes, and citrus don’t store well for long periods of time.
Put produce away promptly. Most whole produce will keep best stored in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper drawer where the humidity is highest. Tomatoes and potatoes are two exceptions. Tomatoes taste better if stored at room temperature. Potatoes stay fresh longer if stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Cut produce should be stored in the refrigerator in covered containers. Bacteria can grow on cut surfaces of produce.
Rinse whole produce thoroughly under clean running tap water, just before you are ready to use. Do not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent. Scrub or rub as needed to remove surface contamination. Wash produce such as oranges and melons even if you don’t eat the rind or skin. When you cut into a fruit or vegetable, any bacteria that is on the surface can be transferred to the inner flesh. Check the label instructions on fresh bagged produce. For example; use by date, pre-washed, and ready to eat. Discard stored fruits and vegetables that appear moldy or smell musty.
It is essential to our health to preserve the nutrition that is found in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals that the body needs to maintain optimal health. Following those easy safe produce tips can help preserve freshness and assure safe produce handling.
Openly discuss the physician’s care plan and seek answers to questions.
(Photo source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)
The American Heart Association notes that cholesterol is “not inherently bad” and continues by explaining how cholesterol is necessary to “build cells, make vitamins and other hormones.”
Cholesterol is not only derived from your dietary intake, what you eat, but also your liver makes cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol, low density lipoprotein or LDL and high density lipoprotein or HDL. The LDL or ‘lousy’ cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis, the build up of fat in the arteries. The HDL or ‘helpful’ cholesterol aids with removing the lousy cholesterol out of the arteries and taking it to the liver for it to be removed from the body.
Being proactive with one’s health and knowing your numbers, one can better maintain a higher quality of life and potentially suffer less infirmities.
Join us for the upcoming Exploring Your Health Indicators Webinar Series to gain knowledge of your blood tests results. The May 11 program will explore cholesterol. The May 25 program dives into inflammation and diseases. And the June 8 program will wrap the series with kidney and thyroid health indicators. Register once for all the sessions and if you miss a session, a recording of the program will be emailed to you. Invest an hour to gain knowledge that can greatly benefit your health.
Exploring Your Health Indicators Registration: https://tinyurl.com/zw28bt4z
Tuesday, April 27, 2021, 2-3 EST/1-2 CST – Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Tuesday, May 11, 2021, 2-3 EST/1-2 CST – Cholesterol
Tuesday, May 25, 2021, 2-3 EST/1-2 CST – Inflammation and Diseases
Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 2-3 EST/1-2 CST – Kidneys and Thyroid
According to the American Diabetes Association, “the national cost of diabetes in the U.S. in 2017 was more than $327 billion, up from $245 billion in 2012.” Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates 7.3 million adults ages 18 and up are undiagnosed diabetics.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of medical conditions that include high triglycerides (a fat in the blood stream), low HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) also known as good cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abdominal obesity defined as a waist circumference of 35 inches of more for women and 40 inches or more for men. A person with three or more of these conditions constitutes metabolic syndrome and increases one’s chances for developing cardiovascular disease.
By being proactive with one’s health and knowing your numbers, one can better maintain a higher quality of life. Managing just one of the above in a healthy manner can aid greatly with improving one’s overall health.
Join us for the upcoming Exploring Your Health Indicators Webinar Series to gain knowledge of your blood test results. April 27 will cover diabetes and metabolic syndrome; May 11 will explore cholesterol; May 25 dives into inflammation and diseases; and June 8 will wrap up the series with kidney and thyroid. Register once for all the sessions and if you miss a session, a recording of the program will be emailed to you. Invest an hour to gain knowledge that can greatly benefit your health.
Photo source: Heidi Copeland
According to industry standards, some of these carrots could not be sold because of “Serious damage” or any defect which seriously affects the general appearance of the
carrots in the container.
Waste less, save money is a great creed to live by. Really, it is that simple. One excellent example of this is food. Research indicates that 40% of all food in America is wasted yet, one in eight Americans does not have enough access to affordable, nutritious food. In other words, they are “food insecure.”
Wasted food is a MASSIVE problem at the commercial, institutional and residential levels. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates there is more food than any other single material in our everyday trash and that approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted. In fact, in 2015, the USDA joined with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a goal to cut our nation’s food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.
The sad fact is, most people do not realize how much impact food and food waste has on the earth and its issues of sustainability. Food waste occurs at every level of involvement. Examples of food waste include growing, processing (by-products too), transporting, point of sale, plate waste and uneaten prepared foods, and kitchen trimmings and their eventual disposal. Preventing food waste at all these levels can make a difference in addressing this issue.
However, preventing food waste it is not as easy as it seems. Many consumer factors also contribute to the problem.
- Food date labels confuse people. Use by/sell by dates are not always about food safety but about peak quality. Many foods are still safe to eat after their dates. Inspect “expired” foods closely via sight and smell before consuming – find ways to use up food past its prime.
- Households overbuy – do you really need super sizes? Buying in bulk is not always less expensive if much of it is discarded. Only purchase what you know you will use and do not get lured in by the “more for less” deals.
- Massive portions are often served – share or learn to love leftovers. Split enormous portions into multiple meals.
- Grocery stores overstock their shelves to maintain an image of abundance.
- People demand “perfect” produce. Farmers have a hard time selling less than stellar items. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are just as delicious and nutritious as their more photogenic counterparts. Places such as farmers’ markets and community gardens are good places to find imperfect produce that would otherwise go to waste.
This Earth Day, (an event first celebrated on April 22, 1970 in the United States and is now a globally coordinated event in more than 193 countries) commit yourself to taking an action. As the late Neil Armstrong famously quoted as he stepped on to the moon… “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind!” If each of us considered and implemented our own practical or creative approaches to preventing food from going to waste what would our collective actions mean for mankind?
Photo Source: Heidi Copeland
The best way to reduce food loss at home is not to create it in the first place. Not only would we individually save money, our collective efforts could conserve resources for future generations. The best method is the one you use.
- Reduce wasted food – shop smart, plan what you purchase, and use it, ALL of it!
- Maximize the efficiency of your refrigerator based on science. Read your refrigerator manual to learn where the coldest spots in the refrigerator are and what foods benefit from refrigerator location.
- Maximize the efficacy of canned products… use the FIFO (first in first out) method of rotation to use the oldest product before the newest on the shelf.
- Donate what you cannot use to others.
- Divert food scraps to animal food (chickens anyone?)
- Landfill as the last resort.
Common causes of personal food waste include overbuying, over preparing and spoilage. The basic tenets of sustainability – reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse, work to reduce food waste too! Pay attention to purchases, eat what is prepared, store food properly, and refuse to waste. We can all do our part! Let’s start today.
April is designated as National Financial Literacy Month to increase awareness about financial literacy, especially with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) causing economic worry for families across the United States. When it comes to financial literacy, knowledge is power!
Consumer debt has become a major challenge for families. If you owe money to multiple creditors, managing this debt can be overwhelming. Many Americans have more debt than they can afford to pay. Developing strategies for overcoming this challenge is essential. These strategies should include building financial knowledge, developing a budget, and setting savings goals to improve your financial outlook.
Financial literacy means understanding how to save, borrow, invest, and care for your money, leading to greater financial well-being. Research has shown that our physical health and well-being are directly linked to our financial health and well-being.
Florida Saves is a statewide initiative that helps inspire Florida families to set savings goals, lower debt, and build personal wealth. The Florida Saves pledge, located on the Florida Saves website, can help us establish personal financial goals. With this pledge, you’re making a commitment to work toward a savings goal, such as college tuition, an emergency fund, or down payment on your first home. Visit the Florida Saves Initiative website to learn more about financial literacy.
Whatever your savings goals are, becoming financially literate can help you achieve those goals. For more information about financial literacy and management, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.
Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions, or affiliations.
Have you thought about your mental and emotional health lately? If you haven’t, it’s a great time to take some time to invest in you. Emotional wellness is the ability to handle and overcome challenges and obstacles that we often must deal with in everyday life. It doesn’t mean you will always be happy, but you are aware of and in control of your thoughts, behaviors, and actions when you have negative feelings or setbacks. Research shows that emotional health is a skill. There are many ways to improve and maintain your emotional health so you can adapt to changes as they happen.
Tips for Emotional Wellness:
Spend time with loved ones to strengthen your relationship.
Photo credit: UF/IFAS
- Stay positive. Purposely develop a positive mindset and hold on to the positive emotions and appreciate the good times as long as you can. Focus on your outlook. Ask yourself: What gives me inner peace? What gives me purpose? Remember to forgive yourself and others for making mistakes.
- Reduce stress. Stress can push you to your limits. It can also motivate you with a rush of energy when needed. It is important to eliminate long-term stress, if possible, and strive for balance. Learn what relaxation techniques work best for you. Deep breathing, meditation, and exercise are healthy ways that could provide release. Set priorities and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.
- Take care of your physical health. Plan to eat healthy meals, get enough rest, and exercise. Your physical health directly relates to your mental health. There are so many things we want to fit into a day but there’s not always enough time. Establish set times to help keep you on track. Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol, and stimulants, especially late in day when it could affect your nighttime routine.
- Strengthen your relationships. Build strong connections with your partner, family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. These social relationships help us to find purpose and meaning. Join a group focused on a favorite activity or hobby. Take a class and learn something new. Volunteer in your community and share positive habits with others. Others can have powerful effects on our health and link us to opportunity.
- Think before you act. Be aware of your emotions and reactions so you can harness them when you are triggered, or something is bothering you. Notice what makes you happy, sad, or mad, and take a few minutes to think before you address or try to change a situation. It’s okay to express your feelings to others and not keep everything within. We must be mindful of how it comes across or affects the other person. Take a walk or some deep breaths and allow yourself to process during a difficult time.
How you feel can affect your daily activities and relationships. People who have good mental health can still have mental illness, so remember to consult your doctor for ongoing concerns. There could be chemical imbalances that need the right kind of treatment. There are also counseling and support groups that can help when you need extra support. It’s up to you to start making healthy choices and taking control of your overall wellness. I hope you feel encouraged and take steps to develop resilience in the face of adversity. For more information on healthy living or other Extension-related topics, you can contact your Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent at your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.