How to store potatoes, onions

490988441My boyfriend stores potatoes and onions in the refrigerator. I keep them in the pantry. Who’s right?

Experts recommend potatoes be stored at a temperature between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and that onions be stored in a cool, dry place.

So, unless your boyfriend has a particularly warm refrigerator (which should be kept at 40 degrees or below), and unless you have a particularly cool pantry, neither of you are storing potatoes and onions in ideal conditions.

Potatoes especially should be kept out of the refrigerator. When stored at temperatures cooler than 45 degrees, starches in a potato begin to break down into sugars. Note: This is not how you make a sweet potato. The accumulation of sugars will cause the potato to darken when cooked. If you do have cold potatoes, it’s recommended that they be warmed gradually at room temperature before cooking to reduce the sugar levels and the risk of discoloration.

Potatoes also store better in high humidity — as high as 90 percent. Not surprisingly, a root cellar would be the perfect place for potatoes. Barring that, store in the coolest, most humid place you can. But not the fridge.

It’s also a good idea to keep potatoes in the dark. Overexposure to light can cause a buildup of solanine, an alkaloid that potatoes naturally produce to repel insects. Light also causes an increase in chlorophyll, which gives a green hue. So, potatoes that have a green tinge also likely have higher levels of solanine, which is toxic at high levels.

Actual illness is rare because not only are solanine levels usually quite low, but because solanine actually causes cooked potatoes to taste bitter. Luckily, solanine tends to stay near the surface. Peeling off green areas of a potato will also remove any solanine.

Potatoes that are stored too long or in too warm of a place will often sprout and begin to shrivel. If that happens, it’s time to throw them out. Potatoes with just a few sprouts can be salvaged by cutting them out.

Onions need a lot less humidity — ideally, 65-70 percent — but just as much ventilation as potatoes. In fact, the National Onion Association says not to store onions in plastic bags, because the lack of air movement will cause them to go bad more quickly. Common yellow onions are hardier and will store longer than other types. White onions and sweet onions are moister and more perishable, and to keep them longer, the association suggests storing them in the refrigerator, but wrapped in paper towels first to keep dry.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Linnette Goard, field specialist in Food Safety, Selection and Management for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Use Halloween to coach moderation

176888983My 6-year-old daughter is excited about trick-or-treating this year, but I’m concerned about how to limit the candy she eats afterward. What’s the best way to handle Halloween?

Actually, Halloween can be a perfect time to focus on balance and moderation in the diet. Figuring out how to fit sweet treats into a healthy eating pattern is a good lesson to learn early in life.

So, how do you do that? It can be tricky. Too much restriction could tempt your child to snitch the forbidden treats. At the same time, keeping the Halloween haul within arm’s reach could lead to mindless munching and overindulging.

Nutrition experts suggest talking with your child in advance about how much candy is a reasonable amount at any given time — normally one or two snack-size treats. Talk about when she would like to indulge —with lunch at school, as an after-school snack or after dinner at home?

Don’t try to hide the candy from your child — you want to help her learn self-regulation in her eating habits, and that won’t happen if you take complete control. Rather, store it in a place that’s out of eyesight and is less convenient than healthier snacks. Research from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab found that the visibility and convenience of a food consistently increases its consumption. So consider keeping the candy in a covered container in the pantry. As she gets older, encourage your daughter to choose a location for herself.

Try to keep a bowl of apples, bananas or other fruit where they’re easily seen and can be grabbed for a snack. The fruit will help your daughter fill up on healthy snacks and crave fewer sweets, while at the same time learn how to incorporate treats into everyday healthy eating.

Some parents “buy out” a portion of the collected candy. This allows children to keep their favorite sweets and earn money from, rather than consuming, the rest.

You also might consider passing out both candy and other items for trick-or-treating. In a 2006 Yale University experiment, nearly half of 284 trick-or-treaters ages 3 to 14 chose a toy — stretch pumpkin men, glow-in-the-dark insects, Halloween stickers or pencils — over candy when given the option. This will help show your daughter that candy isn’t the only kind of Halloween treat.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to be a good role model. If you binge on your child’s stash after she goes to bed at night, she’s going to notice. Instead, enjoy a treat with your daughter, and then put the container away for another day.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Added scrutiny for added sugars

157541706I understand that people are advised to cut back on added sugars in the diet. But why? Is it just that they’re “empty calories” or are there other reasons?

That’s a question even the experts are pondering these days.

In the past, consuming too much added sugar was seen as a sickeningly sweet path to both weight gain and cavities, but if you kept your weight in check and your teeth in good shape, it wasn’t really seen as harmful in other ways.

But in the last five years or so, new research is causing the scientific community to take a second look.

Studies and analysis in the scientific literature indicate that overconsumption of added sugars could in itself play a role in the development of heart disease. While not yet settled science, these ideas are worth considering.

One example is a study, “Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among U.S. Adults,” that was published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It examined data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys conducted from 1988 through 2010, which included information from more than 31,000 people, along with additional information collected between 1988 and 2006 from nearly 12,000 people. After controlling for other risk factors, including high blood pressure, smoking, alcohol consumption, total calorie intake and obesity, the researchers found an association between higher added sugar intake and a higher risk of heart disease. The risk became apparent when added sugar exceeded 15 percent of daily calorie intake. That’s just 300 calories on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. You can get perilously close to that amount with one 20-ounce bottle of regular soda, not to mention added sugars typically consumed in other foods — cookies, ice cream, candy, breakfast cereal, and even foods like pasta sauce, granola bars, barbecue sauce, fat-free salad dressing and flavored yogurt.

Some fruits and vegetables — carrots and other root vegetables, for example, and fruits such as bananas and grapes — provide more sugars than you might expect, but they shouldn’t be lumped together with foods that have added sugars. Fruits and vegetables offer so many other benefits, including vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals, that it’s important to eat more, not less, of them. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults eat 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit a day, and 2 to 4 cups of vegetables a day, depending on overall calorie intake.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, food security specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Stomach pain after eating apples?

454181323Sometimes when I eat an apple, I get a stomachache afterward. Could it be from pesticide residues?

It’s highly unlikely that your stomach pains are coming from pesticide residues. In fact, there’s no evidence to support that notion.

It’s true that apples tend to land high on the list of the highly publicized Environmental Working Group’s annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. In fact, in its 2014 report, the organization said nearly all apples it tested were positive for at least one pesticide residue.

Although that sounds alarming, the report doesn’t say much about the levels of pesticides detected. The organization uses data gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to come up with its listings. In the data the group used for its 2014 guide, 743 of the 744 apples tested had residues lower than the government limits, most of them much, much lower. Remember, just because something is detected in minuscule amounts doesn’t mean it’s harmful. As with any substance, it’s the dose that makes the poison.

A 2011 study in the Journal of Toxicology — written in direct response to the advocacy group’s annual listings — analyzed the data and found that exposures to commonly detected pesticide residues pose a negligible risk — so low, in fact, that substituting organic produce for conventionally grown “would not result in any appreciable reduction of consumer risks.”

Avoiding apples and other produce is a bigger risk: Their health benefits are well-documented.

Still, the stomach pains you describe are not uncommon after eating apples. So, what’s going on?

A food intolerance is possible. A set of carbohydrate intolerances are suspected to play a role in some types of abdominal pain. If the problem is severe, you’ll want to check with your doctor to get a diagnosis.

The organization Food Intolerances Diagnostics suggests people with this type of intolerance avoid foods with a fructose content of more than 3 grams per serving, or a fructose-to-glucose ratio greater than 1. A fresh apple has 6 grams of fructose per 100-gram serving (or 3.5 ounces), and a fructose-to-glucose ratio of about 2.

If this is what’s going on, only you can decide if you enjoy eating a fresh, crisp apple enough to endure any resulting discomfort.

Finally, as with all fresh produce, don’t forget to rinse it thoroughly under running water first, preferably just before eating. That will dislodge any surface dirt and bacteria and wash it away.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Carbohydrates: How low is low?

514967821I heard about a study recently that said low-carb diets worked better than low-fat diets. My question is, how “low” is low-carb?

You’re likely talking about a study published in early September in the Annals of Internal Medicine called “Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial.”

The authors’ conclusion — that a low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and heart health — got a lot of press. But other experts raised their eyebrows after reading the whole study.

For the study, researchers followed 119 participants for a year and found those placed on a low-carbohydrate diet lost an average of 12 pounds, compared with an average of just 4 pounds for those on a low-fat diet.

For this study, “low-carb” meant less than 40 grams of carbohydrates daily. If you’ve ever counted carbs, you know that’s not a heckuva lot. A cup of milk has 13 grams of carbohydrates. A medium apple, 25 grams. And that’s not even counting bread or pasta. You get the point: Critics of low-carb diets suggest that most people find them too restrictive to adhere to for long, and they suspect any weight loss associated with them is essentially due to overall calorie restriction.

This study seems to support those points: Nearly all of the weight loss enjoyed by the low-carb group occurred in the first three months, where the group also reported consuming 190 fewer calories a day than those on the low-fat diet.

Additionally, the low-carb participants reported a higher consumption of carbs than they were actually supposed to eat: about 80 grams daily at first, and up to 112 grams daily by year’s end.

That said, there remains serious discussion about standard dietary advice that suggests a hefty portion of the diet — 45-65 percent of calories — should come from carbohydrates.

Some evidence suggests that moderately restricting carbohydrates to 25 to 45 percent of calories a day (that would be equal to 125-225 grams on a 2,000 calorie per day diet) and at the same time boosting protein and healthy fats could help weight loss by reducing hunger pangs. But most dietitians believe that very low-carbohydrate diets — those that restrict carbs to less than 50 grams a day, or 5-15 percent of calories, aren’t feasible for most of us.

Most dietitians agree that a healthful diet can take many forms, as long as it includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats, and restricts added sugars. The key is to find something you can live with for the long term.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu

Editor: This column was reviewed by Bridgette Kidd, Healthy People program specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Squash and Pumpkin

144727297Squashes are members of the gourd family, which also includes watermelons, cucumbers, muskmelon, pumpkins, and gourds. Squash was a common food of Native  Americans. Archeological research indicates findings of rind and seed in cliff dwellings dated around 1500 BC. The blossom of the squash was the Hopi emblem of fertility. All through writings of the earliest explorers and colonists there are references to squash.

Pumpkin had its original habitat in South America. The names pumpkin and squash, especially in the United States, are applied inconsistently to certain varieties of both. Squash is available from July through September. October is the big pumpkin month, although a few are available in September and November.

Selection Soft Shelled (Summer Squash)

Selection Tips
• Skin should appear fresh, glossy, tender, and free from blemishes; both skin and seeds are eaten.
• Avoid over-developed summer squash—it has hard rind, dull appearance, and enlarged seeds and tends to be stringy.

Varieties to Look For
Crookneck and Straight Neck—delicate yellow, pebbly skin; gold color indicates it is over-ripe.
Zucchini—dark green, long, and straight, 8 to 10 inches in length.
Cocozelle—similar except smaller with green and yellow stripes.
White Bush Scallop—green flesh with white tinge; smooth skin,scalloped edges.
Spaghetti Squash—yellow to golden yellow skin, light yellow flesh, 8 to 10 inches long and 4 to 6 inches in diameter. After cooked in water about 30 minutes, flesh separates into spaghetti-like strands.

Hard Shelled (Winter) Squash and Pumpkin

Selection Tips
• Should be heavy for its size, indicating more edible flesh. Shell should have no cracks, bruises, or decay and should be firm.
• Seeds and rind are not eaten.
• Pumpkin should be fully ripe with firm rinds, bright orange color, and fairly heavy weight.

Varieties to Look For
Buttercup—turban shaped and fairly smooth shell; has nutty-type flavor, smooth textured flesh.
Butternut—gourd shaped with smooth, light beige skin; flesh is orange, fine textured, sweet.
Acorn—small, dark green with ridges; orange color on shell means loss of quality.
Hubbard—skin may be golden yellow, greenish-blue, or dark green; size ranges from 10 to 20 pounds.
• Decorating as well as good pie varieties of pumpkin are available.

For information on squash and pumpkin varieties available in Ohio, contact your county Extension educator, Agriculture or Horticulture.

Storage
• Summer Squash—Best when eaten soon after purchase. To store, refrigerate and use in 3 to 5 days.
• Winter Squash—Store whole in a cool (50 to 60 degrees F) dry area. Will keep several months if mature and stem is still attached.

Yield
Due to the many variables, such as moisture content, size, and variety, it is impossible to give specific recommendations as to quantity to buy. The recommendations below are approximations.
• 1 bushel squash = 40 pounds
• 1 bushel squash = 16–20 quarts canned
• 1 pound summer squash = 2–3 servings
• 1 pound winter squash (flesh) = 1 cup cooked

Nutrition
The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” recommend that adults need 2–2½ cups of a variety of vegetables daily. Squash and pumpkin are great choices to meet this requirement. They contain antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, some B vitamins, iron, calcium, and fiber. Pumpkin and winter squash varieties are especially good sources of vitamin A. Calories per cupserving: summer squash—15, winter squash—65, pumpkin—40.

Safe Handling
Clean surfaces, utensils, and hands after touching raw meat and poultry and before you use them on fresh produce. To remove dirt, bacteria, and possible pesticide residue, wash vegetables thoroughly in cold water. Do not use soap, dish detergent, or bleach when washing since these household products are not approved for human consumption. Dry completely before storage, especially if refrigerated, to discourage growth of bacteria and mold. We recommend that you only prepare the amount of fresh squash or pumpkin that you plan to use for a recipe or for a meal. Extra squash or pumpkin can be frozen.

Serving
Squash and pumpkin may be baked, boiled, steamed, broiled, pan-fried, or pressure cooked for immediate use.

Serve Summer Squash Creatively
• Slice or dice and cook in a small amount of water or fry in oil, season to taste.
• Dip in flour or egg and crumbs; fry in oil.
• Good combined with tomatoes.
• Season with basil, marjoram, oregano, or rosemary. Sprinkle with Parmesan or mozzarella cheese. Bake, mash, or fry—top with cheese or chive-parsley butter.

Serve Pumpkin and Winter Squash Creatively
• To bake, cut in half or pieces. Remove seeds and stringy parts. Place cut sides down in baking dish; add 1/4 inch water. Bake until tender.
• When nearly done, turn right side up and season with margarine, brown sugar, cinnamon or nutmeg, or try stuffing with sausage, apples, and cinnamon.
• To boil, cut up or cook whole in salted water; then scrape out of shell and use as a puree in pies, breads, and casseroles.
• Remove from rind and mash with cream, nutmeg, brown sugar, crumbled crisply fried bacon, candied ginger, and grated orange peel or orange juice.

Written by Barbara A. Brahm, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences.
Reviewed by Lydia Medeiros, Ph.D., R.D., Extension Specialist, Ohio State University Extension.

Apples: A Guide to Selection and Use

57576191Apples are a versatile and appealing fruit of widespread popularity. Many enjoy growing their own apples in backyard planting, while other prefer to purchase quality apples grown by professional fruit growers. Whether you plan to grow your own apples or purchase them from someone else, it is desirable to have information descriptive of the various types enjoying popularity today. Such information can be used to make important decisions concerning the type of trees to buy for planting or fruit to purchase for family use.

Ohio’s Leading Apple Varieties

The trend today is toward red apples, especially when the apples are grown for sale to others through commercial marketing channels. In cases where the apples are being grown primarily for home use, yellow apples such as yellow Transparent, Lodi and Grimes Golden may be used. Golden Delicious, the most popular yellow variety today, in not only well suited to the home fruit planting, but to commercial as well. The popular red varieties of apples at the present time in order of number of trees in the state are Red Delicious, Rome Beauty, Jonathan, Stayman and McIntosh. Red apples becoming increasingly popular as people try them and like them are the varieties Franklin and Melrose.

Franklin is a cross between McIntosh and Delicious and has a fine flavor and aroma. Harvest is normally during late September. Melrose is a cross between Jonathan and Delicious. The fruits are large with good flavor and texture. They ripen around the middle of October. Other newer apples growers may want to try are Ruby, Holiday and the various strains of Red Delicious. Also worth trying are Tydeman’s Red, Paula Red, Prima, Priscilla, Surprize (yellow) and Empire. At present, there is a trend to plant trees on dwarfing rootstock, both in commercial orchards and in backyard planting. By planting small trees, the home gardener can get several trees of different cultivars (varieties) in the same space that one or two large trees would require.

Most of the popular varieties, including those mentioned above, are now available on dwarf and semi-dwarf rootstocks. Dwarf trees, normally do not get much over 10 to 12 feet tall at maturity, while semi-dwarf trees may grow to be 15 to 18 feet tall. Dwarf trees begin to bear earlier than the larger, standard trees. Dwarfing does not affect fruit size or quality.

Apples for Specific Use

Apples are a favorite fruit of many people for eating out of hand or in fresh salads. The fruit of many apple varieties are also excellent for making a wide variety of cooked products. Apples best suited to particular uses are indicated below.

Fresh

  • McIntosh
  • Cortland
  • Jonathan
  • Red Delicious
  • Golden Delicious
  • Stayman Winesap
  • Melrose
  • Franklin
  • Prima

Applesauce

  • Golden Delicious
  • Melrose
  • Yellow Transparent
  • McIntosh
  • Cortland
  • Jonathan
  • Grimes Golden
  • Stayman Winesap
  • Rome Beauty
  • Lodi

Pies

  • Cortland
  • Jonathan
  • Grimes Golden
  • Melrose
  • Rome Beauty
  • Yellow Transparent
  • McIntosh
  • Golden Delicious
  • Stayman Winesap
  • Lodi

Baking

  • Jonathan
  • Golden Delicious
  • Stayman Winesap
  • Rome Beauty
  • McIntosh
  • Cortland
  • Grimes Golden
  • Melrose
  • Stayman Winesap

Freezing for Slicing

  • Jonathan
  • Golden Delicious
  • Stayman Winesap
  • Red Delicious
  • Grimes Golden
  • McIntosh

Freezing for Sauce

  • Yellow Transparent
  • Wealthy
  • Cortland
  • McIntosh

Freezing for Baking

  • Baldwin
  • Northern Spy

Cider

The best cider is usually made from a blend of different varieties of apples. Varieties are grouped into four groups according to their suitability as cider material.

Sweet Subacid*

  • Rome Beauty
  • Delicious
  • Grimes Golden
  • Cortland

Astringent (Crab apples)

  • Florence Hibernal
  • Red Siberian
  • Transcendent
  • Martha

Aromatic

  • Red Delicious
  • Golden Delicious
  • McIntosh

Mildly Acid to Slightly Tart

  • Stayman Winesap
  • Jonathan

General Use

  • Jonathan
  • Golden Delicious
  • Stayman Winesap
  • Melrose

* Usually furnish the highest percentage of total stock used for cider.

Written by Richard Funt, Professor Emeritus, Horticulture and Crop Science, College or Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Originally prepared by James D. Utzinger, Extension Horticulture, The Ohio State University.

Green beans aren’t quite beans

481658393This year we have an overabundance of green beans from our garden. If we eat them with rice, will they make a complete protein like other beans do?

Green beans aren’t really “beans,” at least according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. They’re great vegetables, though.

The primary difference is in protein content. A cup of green beans contains just 2 grams of protein, whereas a cup of, say, black beans contains 15 grams of protein. Green beans are actually harvested before the bean in the pod has fully matured — that’s why they don’t have as much protein as black beans, kidney beans or other types of dry beans.

Dry beans are a unique food in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They can be counted as vegetables or as proteins, and, paired with grains such as rice, provide all of the necessary amino acids for a complete protein. Green beans aren’t in the same category, but still are a perfectly fine food to include in the diet.

A cup of green beans has just 35 calories, and is a very good source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, iron and manganese.

An easy way to preserve your bounty is to freeze green beans. Ohio State University Extension recently developed a five-minute video showing how to properly prepare fresh green beans for freezing. It’s online atgo.osu.edu/greenbnpreserv.

One step not to skip is blanching. Although blanching causes some nutrient loss, especially of vitamin C, it prevents loss of other nutrients such as carotenoids.

After washing and trimming green beans, blanching the beans in boiling water for 3 minutes or steaming them for 5 minutes will not only eliminate any surface microorganisms, but will retard enzymes that otherwise would allow the vegetables to continue ripening, thus losing flavor, texture, color or nutrients. After blanching, cool the green beans rapidly in cold water or ice water to immediately stop the cooking process for the highest quality frozen green beans. For more information on freezing green beans and other vegetables, see the OSU Extension fact sheet Freezing Vegetables, at go.osu.edu/frzvegpdf.

For information on green bean nutrition and some healthy recipes, OSU Extension offers two additional resources:

• Maximize Your Nutrients from Green Beans and Pea Pods, online at Extension’s Farm to Health Series website at go.osu.edu/grnbnnutrpdf.

• Garden to Plate: Green Beans, a 2.5-minute video, online at go.osu.edu/grnbnrecipe.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Kids still not eating enough produce

179322257How many fruits and vegetables should children eat every day? 

Actually, the recommendations for fruits and vegetables vary widely. They depend on children’s daily calorie needs, which relate to their age and activity level. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises that:

  • Children ages 2 to 5 should eat 1 to 1.5 cups of fruit and 1 to 2 cups of vegetables a day.
  • Children ages 6 to 11 should eat 1 to 2 cups of fruit and 1.5 to 3 cups of vegetables a day.
  • Children and teens ages 12 to 19 should eat 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit and 2 to 4 cups of vegetables a day.

For details on these recommendations, including amounts of specific types of vegetables and methods to prepare fruits and vegetables, see appendices 6 and 7 in the Dietary Guidelines, online as a PDF atbit.ly/2010dietary.

As you might suspect, most kids don’t eat enough produce. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that while children have increased their overall fruit intake since 2003, most — 6 in 10 — are still not eating enough fruit. What’s worse, 9 in 10 kids don’t meet the recommendations for vegetable consumption.

One promising sign: The message to choose whole fruits over fruit juice appears to be getting through. Fruit juice is a concentrated source of calories and doesn’t have the fiber or, sometimes, some of the nutrients that whole fruit provides. The CDC report found that fruit juice intake significantly decreased, while whole fruit consumption increased significantly — more than making up for the reduction in juice intake.

The findings about vegetables were not as positive. Not only was there no increase in vegetable consumption over the study period, 2003 to 2010, but 30 percent of the vegetables kids consumed were white potatoes, often eaten as less-healthful fried potatoes or even potato chips.

To help kids and teens eat more fruits and vegetables, parents can:

  • Eat fruit and vegetables with your children. Modeling good behavior and enjoying a healthful snack with your kids is always helpful.
  • Make sure a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are available and in eyesight. Cut up and prepare produce ahead of time, and keep it at the front of the refrigerator. Make it easier to reach for an apple or carrot sticks than it is to grab some chips or cookies.
  • Include children when shopping for, growing, and preparing fruit and vegetables.
  • Encourage children to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Offer options — “Would you like this or that?” — to get kids to try new fruits and vegetables. Don’t just stick with favorites all the time.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, nutrition specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Bottom line: Don’t wash poultry

84467038We had a cookout at my sister’s house last weekend and I noticed she rinsed off her chicken in the sink before preparing it for cooking. Are we supposed to do that? 

In a word, no. In three words, no, no, no!

Your sister may be confusing food safety guidelines for poultry with those for produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be rinsed under running water before cutting into or consuming them. But poultry really shouldn’t be.

Raw poultry is likely to harbor bacteria that can cause foodborne illness, such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. A well-publicized study by Consumer Reports earlier this year found 97 percent of the 316 chicken breasts tested were contaminated with bacteria that could make you sick.

The thing is, cooking, not rinsing, is what destroys the bacteria. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to be safe. (Always use a meat thermometer to be sure.)

So, your sister might argue, why not rinse it beforehand? Isn’t that just an extra measure of safety? The answer is: Nope.

The reason is twofold, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. First, some bacteria commonly on the surface of meat and poultry are so tightly attached that no amount of rinsing will ever get them off. Second, and even more important, other types of bacteria are easily washed off — and when you put that raw chicken under the tap, the water is likely to splash all over the sink, the nearby countertop — and on you. And that can cause cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination is one of the primary causes of foodborne illness. Bacteria on your hands and on food-preparation surfaces can contaminate food that otherwise would have been just fine. It’s easy to imagine that, once cooked and relieved of the nasty bacteria, that perfectly fine chicken is placed on a platter that your sister had placed near the sink where she washed the chicken. The platter may look clean, but it could hold bacteria that would re-contaminate the chicken. The bacteria could also splash on her arms, clothing and other surfaces. Rinsing poultry and other raw meat is not only unnecessary, it’s not worth the risk.

You might send your sister a link to New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” website, at aces.nmsu.edu/dontwashyourchicken/. It includes several videos and cooking demonstrations repeating the same message: Don’t. Wash. Chicken.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Linnette Goard, field specialist in Food Safety, Selection and Management for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.