Fruits and Veggies - Seasonality Charts

Part of enjoying fruits and vegetables is consuming them when they are in season and provide the best flavor.  Although learning about seasonality can be somewhat intimidating at first, it's well worth the investment to learn about the fruits and veggies you enjoy and incorporate into meal planning the most so that you know when to look out for them and when to steer clear because the quality just isn't there.  

I have an interesting new adventure I'm going to be sharing in the next few weeks and months, and part of that has included doing research on sasonality.  Although said final product is going to be much more fun, informative and comprehensive, here are some great charts from CUESA, a non-profit out in California that focuses on cultivating a sustainable food system.  Each photo below acts as a link to these charts.

Seasonality Charts:

Photo acts as direct link to CUESA Fruit Seasonality Chart

Photo acts as direct Link to CUESA Vegetable Seasonality Chart

Blue Ribbon Vegetables

As a Registered Dietitian I find that my counseling often emphasizes adding vegetables and fruits in.  Although it sounds simpler that it is, the truth is that it is easier for us to eliminate the bad by utilizing the good.  This leads to satisfying and nutritious meals.  Not to mention, a pattern of intake that our bodies were meant to experience.

Take a look at all of the wonderful nutrients you can get from the following foods.  Use this 'Blue Ribbon' produce in as many meals as possible!

Top Vegetables for Various Nutrients:

Vitamin A - Pumpkin, Collard Greens, Sweet Potato, Kale, Carrots

Vitamin C - Red Pepper, Oranges, Strawberries, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Broccoli

Vitamin K - Kale, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Collard Greens, Broccoli, Green Cabbage

Vitamins B1 and B2 - Peas, Spinach, Mushrooms

Vitamin B6 - Prunes, Banana, Sweet Red Pepper, Baked Potato, Spinach, Zucchini

Folate - Asparagus, Spinach, Cauliflower, Endive

Potassium - Baked Potato, Kale, Avocado, Sweet Potato, Cantaloupe, Bananas, Tomato, Cabbage

Phosphorus - Green Peas, Corn, Baked Potato, Broccoli

Magnesium - Spinach, Banana, Arugula, Pineapple, Swiss Chard

Manganese - Pineapple, Spinach, Blackberries, Strawberries, Peas

Lean and Hydrating Foods for that Summer Slim-Down

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot....

It's that time of the year (at least up here in the tri-state area) where spring is palpable, new years resolutions are long forgotten, and the warmer weather is motivating people to get outside and get in shape for the impending summer.  Maximizing fruits and vegetables is important for that slim-down because they are volume-filling, provide a variety of fantastic nutrients, and help to maintain hydration.  Combine that with lean sources of protein and it will help the energy from that meal last even longer.

With What Foods?Personal photo from a summer night last year. It was one of those obscenely hot days where one could only imagine eating something hydrating for dinner. And it was delicious. [@whitneyba Instagram]

Try to pack some of these foods into your diet over the coming months to feel good all spring and summer long!

Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Cucumber - these fruits/veggies have a very high water content (all are above 90%) and also provide nutrients like vitamin C and potassium

   *Tip: Use cucumber slices to replace crackers while snacking with low fat cheese

Summer Squash, Zuccini, Peppers, Onions - practically a variety pack of nutrients, slice up these veggies and throw them on the grill with your spices of choice for a low-calorie base to almost any meal

Oranges, Grapefruit, Citrus - no more juice! fresh cut citrus can be ever-so refreshing, so load up on nutrients while enjoying these straight from the fruit bowl or cut up and leave in refrigerated water overnight for a healthy flavor-infused alternative to water

Frozen Berries and Grapes - a great snack when you're craving something sweet, these frozen fruits are filled with anitoxidants to fight off those free radicals

Greek Yogurt - with a high protein content and low fat content, greek yogurt is creamy and delicious while maintaining that envious nutrition facts profile (yes it's what we RDs check out - every time)

Grilled Chicken - it never hurts to cook up a little extra chicken to have slices to pair with almost anything for a great snack or to complete a meal (spritzed with balsamic and thrown on a lettuce salad, mixed in with quinoa and diced veggies, with some light ranch and cucmbers as a snack, oh the list goes on...)

Now go enjoy these foods and share any creative tips for incorporating healthy into the everyday!

Shopping Organic: When is it Necessary?

When to go organic...

I think that the first line of defense when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables is... you guessed it, actually eating them.  About 12% of American adults are eating the recommended 2 cups of fruits daily and 18% of American adults are eating the recommended 3 cups of vegetables daily (based on NHANES data).  It looks like we have a little bit of work to do.

Now that said, there is a growing market for organic, pesiticide-free, preservative-free, locally-grown, and/or grown with sustainable agriculture practices.  We eat for a lot of different reasons and one of them is certainly ingredient quality.  The Environmental Working Group reveals that we can reduce pesticide intake by approximately 80% by eliminating the twelve fruits/vegetables with the highest rate of pesticides.  

This is especially important for parents to employ with their growing children as the intake of chemicals is higher per kilogram for children.  That difference in concentration in the body can have an impact on health.

Take Home Messages

  • If you can afford it, and if it matters to you, try to select organic alternatives for the 'Dirty Dozen'.  
  • Don't waste your food dollars on buying organic for the 'Clean Fifteen'.  
  • Always wash your fresh produce.
  • Label-reading Tip: PLU codes found on the produce reveal growing practice
    • 4-digit code = conventionally grown
    • 5-digit code starting with 8 = Genetically Modified Organism
    • 5-digit code starting with 9 = Organic

The Dirty Dozen

  • celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale and collard greens, cherries, potatoes, grapes, lettuce

 The Clean Fifteen

  • onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mango, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi fruit, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, sweet onion

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I love seeing communities rally around various health issues and Breast Cancer Awareness every October has become a great example of that.  Come on...  Who doesn't love seeing 260 pound men of raw muscle running around and catching a football in pink cleats and sweatbands?

Reducing Your Risk

Photo courtesy of PT PittsburghWhile part of what plays into risk factor is genetics (family history, age of onset of menstruation and menopause, gene mutations), there are ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer, and many other cancers.

Diet and exercise play a supporting role in cancer research because we're finding out more and more how important the two are in cancer risk.  Oxidation reactions within the body are inflammatory and negative.  These can cause mutations in genetic transcription (think back to that zipper-like DNA strand getting copied) which can then turn on maladies like cancer.  The key is to try to utilize everyday diet and frequent physical activity to help reduce this inflammatory environment.  It's also important to eat a variety of colors throughout the day/week to get a variety of micronutrients as vitamins and minerals carry out very basic cellular functions.  

Foods to Focus On:

 Whole grains: whole wheat pasta/breads/cereals, oats, barley, brown rice

  • Cruciferous vegetables: spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, collards, swiss chard, cabbage
  • Fruits: grapefruit, oranges, cherries, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, lime
  • Legumes: beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans

Breast cancer, as with many others, is also closely connecting with increased risk for those that are overweight and obese.  Focus on weight control, healthy fiber and whole grain intake, and regular physical activity for your risk reduction. 

And if you're planning on marking the month with any special breast cancer awareness events, please share!


Grilled Watermelon... Mmmmnnn!

Fruits and Veggies More Matters has a wonderful video archive brimming with tips on cooking, nutrition, food prep, just about anything!  I'm so happy to have discovered it!  I may post their videos from time to time just to share the wealth of knowledge.  

Check out a funny one that I found... First of all, grilled watermelon sounds interesting.  I may have to try it sometime soon!  [Apartment living is not conducive to grilling.]  Second... Where did he find that shirt?!  And where can I get one?!  

I'm having trouble embedding the video... Womp womp.  Check out the link below!

Grilling Watermelon

Summertime Snacks

Beautiful Bounties

The summer months bring along a wonderful abundance of fresh and in season produce and the craving for lighter fare.  A combination that the dietitian in me enjoys!  With Farmer's Markets cropping up all over the place and better prices in the grocery store, now is the time to take advantage.  Here are some ideas for getting interesting and satiating snacks into your diet.

Some Snack Rules:

  1. Healthy, unprocessed carbohydrates will help curb any immediate feeling of hunger.  Fruit, vegetables, or whole grains are all great options.
  2. Pair it with a little bit of protein and/or fat to help stay fuller for longer.  
  3. Snacks are meant to keep your body supplied with energy when there are long bouts between meals.  Regimenting your body to expect healthy energy throughout the day may in fact improve your metabolism and help reduce hunger cravings.

Snack Ideas:

  • 1/2 whole grain english muffin or 1 slice whole grain toast with peanut butter
  • Strawberries with a little bit of vinaigrette to enhance the flavor
  • Low fat cheese slices or laughing cow cheese spread over cucumber slices (instead of crackers)
  • Fresh cut apples with peanut butter
  • Start dipping quarters of peppers into [spicy] salsa 
  • Any vegetable dipped in hummus (carrots and snap peas are a personal favorite)
  • Wrap sliced carrots and avocado in lettuce (and dip in a light asian sesame salad dressing)
  • Throw some frozen or fresh berries in low fat yogurt
  • Combine trail mix or granola with freshly sliced melon or berries


Enjoy the snack ideas, hopefully catered to your own taste!