All posts by Angela Heinz

December Vegetable of the Month: Celery

The December Vegetable of the Month is Celery! 

Celery is a highly versatile, low-calorie vegetable that can be chopped, dipped, crunched, stuffed, blended, stir-fried and enjoyed raw right after you wash it. It contains an impressive amount of nutrients and is a natural health booster, thanks to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Celery also makes a great addition to your holiday veggie tray!

Celery is a great source of:

  • Vitamin K to support the immune system and help heal cuts 
  • Folate for healthy blood
  • Vitamin A for healthy eyes

Did you know?

  • Celery crops don’t do well in hot weather. They thrive in mild winters, cool summers, or long and cool fall growing seasons. 
  • The oldest record of the word celeri is in a 9th century French or Italian poem. It lists the plant’s medicinal uses and benefits. (During the Middle Ages, celery was used as a medicinal plant to treat toothaches and arthritis!) 
  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, European gardeners figured out how to cultivate celery for culinary purposes. By the middle of the 18th century, wealthy families in Sweden were eating celery that had been stored in their cellars. From then on, the vegetable became widely used. 
  • The best celery is pale to bright green, crisp and snaps apart easily.
  • You can wrap celery in plastic and store it in the fridge for up to a week. 

Why crunch on some celery? 

  • Enjoy some Zzzzzz’s. Celery is known to promote relaxation and sleep. 
  • Keep things moving. Because celery is high in fiber (one cup contains 5 grams!), it acts as a digestive aid. 
  • Attack your arthritis. Celery has about 25 anti-inflammatory compounds. 
  • Quench your thirst. The water content of celery is almost 95%, so it keeps you hydrated while helping your digestion.  
  • Surplus your smoothies. Go ahead and blend up those leaves–they have lots of calcium, potassium and Vitamin C.

Four ways to eat more celery

  1. Bring the heat! Bake, steam, microwave or stir-fry celery–it goes with just about anything. 
  2. Dice, dice baby. Dice up celery and add to soups or stews, or sprinkle on top of chili for an extra healthy crunch. 
  3. Perfect your party platter. Dip raw or lightly cooked celery into low-fat vegetable dressing, hummus, guacamole or salsa.  
  4. Turn on the texture. Add to mashed potatoes, stuffing and salads for a little extra crunch.

Celerybrate with Apple Celery Salad!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup apples, chopped and cored
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped walnuts
  • 1 ½-Tablespoon non-fat plain yogurt
  • ½-Tablespoon non-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon 100% apple juice
  • 2 Tablespoons raisins or Craisins
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine celery, apples, raisins and walnuts. Mix.
  2. In a small bowl, mix yogurts together with apple juice and blend thoroughly.
  3. Pour dressing over apple mixture. Mix well to coat.

Recipe from SDSU Extension

Super Celery Juice

  • 1 bunch celery (roughly 8–9 medium stalks), trimmed and cleaned
  • 1/2 green apple, optional
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, optional

Directions

  1. Run the celery and green apple through a juicer. Stir in the lemon juice.
  2. This juice is best served fresh. Add ice, if desired.

Recipe from Healthline

Fact check: SDSU Extension, South Dakota Harvest of the Month, Healthline

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

November Fruit of the Month: Chokecherry

November celebrates chokecherries — a fruit that packs a punch! Chokecherries get their name from their bitter taste. While many recipes involving chokecherries are sweet, they provide many benefits that keep you healthy!

Chokecherries are great sources of:

  • Antioxidants to prevent disease 
  • Vitamin C to keep your bones, cells, and skin healthy
  • Manganese to help your brain and nervous function stay tip-top

Did you know?

Chokecherries (Dakota: Can-pa, Lakota: Chanpha) were a staple for Native Americans that lived on the Great Plains. They served as a food source, especially during the winter, and treated a variety of health problems. Popular uses for chokecherries include:

Pemmican

The most important use was in pemmican which was made by combining dried meat, bone marrow, animal lard, and crushed chokecherries.

Fruit Balls

Whole chokecherries, including the pulp, skin, and stone, were smashed into a pulp, shaped into balls, and dried in the sun.

Chokecherry Tea:

Try it at home:

  1. Pick and clean chokecherry leaves 
  2. Refrigerate the leaves until you’re ready to prepare the tea. (Leaves can be dried for future use if stored in a clean container.)
  3. Bring water to a boil.
  4. Put a few leaves into the boiling water until you achieve the desired taste, or add 1 TBSP of dried leaves per cup of boiling water.
  5. Simmer for 15 minutes and serve.
  6. Add sweetener if desired.

Recipe from Cheyenne River Tribal Extension, Eagle Butte, SD

Where are chokecherries grown?

Wild chokecherry bushes or trees can be found across the United States in all but eight states or territories. The plant flowers from April to July before producing edible, sour fruits. Ripe chokecherries are black, ¼-½ inch round, and grow in clusters like grapes. Look for this plant in areas that have not been sprayed with pesticides. 

But be careful — parts of the chokecherry plant are poisonous when eaten raw! Although the fruits are edible when raw, the leaves, seeds, and stems contain toxic quantities of hydrocyanic acid and should not be consumed unless properly treated. Either boil or dry the fruit and leaves to neutralize the acid.

 Four ways to use chokecherries

  1. Jelly in my belly: Craft a chokecherry jelly that you can spread throughout the year! 
  2. Bitter batter: Sweeten up your muffins or pancakes by removing the seeds and using the fresh fruit in your batter.
  3. Sensational syrup: Boil chokecherries and remove the seeds to make a fruity syrup that is bound to spice up any morning.
  4. Piece of pie: Juice your chokecherries and combine with other ingredients to bake a pie that’s perfect for serving at holiday meals.
  5.  

Fact Check: USDA Chokecherry Plant Guide, SDSU Extension, Healthline

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Explore more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

October Fruit of the Month: Squash

Even though squash is technically classified as fruit, for cooking purposes it’s treated like a vegetable. It’s a member of the gourd family and is packed with nutrients.

Squash is a great source of:

  • Dietary fiber to help digestion
  • Vitamin A to boost immune health, keep your eyes healthy, and help cell growth
  • Lots of phytonutrients to keep you healthy all the way around

Did you know?

Archaeological evidence gathered from Canada to South America shows people have known about the benefits of squash for almost 10,000 years. For generations, people relied on two primary sources of food to get through the winter months: wild game, and nutrient-dense plants that keep well… like squash! That means craving mom’s squash soup or pumpkin pie is more than just nostalgic—those complex carbohydrates can come in handy when the temperatures drop.

Squash varieties

Summer squash tends to have a relatively long growing season. They are planted in the spring and early summer, but are readily available well into the fall and early winter. There are many different types, including the popular zucchini and common yellow/crookneck squash; as well as the pattypan, which comes in shades of yellow, green, cream, and even white. 

A medium summer squash (6-8″ long) contains about 70 calories and is a great source of fiber and potassium. All have a mild flavor and can be shredded (skins and all) for soups or sauces, or can be baked or grilled.

Winter squash arrive in supermarkets or farmers markets late summer through late winter. These heartier varieties have a thicker outer shell which allows them to keep for longer periods of time. 

Butternut, acorn, pumpkin, and spaghetti squash are some of the more well-known types, but there are plenty of unusual shapes and colors to add to your table—like the blue hokkaido, the plump cheese (aka Cinderella pumpkins), the cheerfully-striped delicata, the speckled kabocha, and the humongous hubbard. 

Flavors range from mild to nutty to sweet. Each kind is a solid choice for roasting, baking, or pureeing for soups. With its dense texture, squash makes it easy to use in soups, casseroles, breads, and desserts. Watch this video on preparing winter squash.

Five ways to eat more squash

  1. Sas-squashed: Stuff a winter squash with meat, fruit, and nuts and bake for a hearty meal.
  2. Very gourd snack: Cut butternut squash into French-fry sized pieces. Lightly toss in oil. Sprinkle it with cumin and chili powder. Roast until tender.
  3. Gourd-geous dish: Chunk and roast squash as a compliment to a savory fall entree.
  4. Soup, there it is: Puree butternut squash for a delicious, golden-colored soup.
  5. An impasta: Switch out pasta for butternut squash, a healthier alternative. Steam or microwave until cooked, then top with your favorite sauce and veggies.

Helpful squash equivalents:

  • 1/3 to 1/2 pound raw unpeeled squash = 1 serving
  • 1 pound peeled squash = 1 cup cooked, mashed
  • 2-1/2 pounds whole squash = 2-3/4 to 3 cups pureed
  • 1 pound trimmed squash = 2 cups cooked pieces
  • 1 pound squash = 2 to 3 servings
  • 12 ounces frozen squash = 1-1/2 cups

You can’t beat squash—a great all-around choice for the dinner table. Just don’t be surprised when your family starts asking you to cook the autumn centerpiece you arranged.

Fact check: Eat Well Live Well Campaign, Pick It! Try It! Like It!, Harvard School of Public Health, Iowa State Extension

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Show me more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

Self-Care at Work

Did you know? On average, a person spends more than one-third of their day, 5 days a week, at work!

Self-care is important to weave throughout the day, including at work. Take a little time throughout the day to prioritize yourself.

It can:

  • Help reduce stress
  • Prevent chronic disease
  • Help you maintain a healthy lifestyle

The National Wellness Institute promotes Six Dimensions of Wellness.  These dimensions are interconnected and focusing on all areas of wellness can help us achieve our full potential.

Prioritize Worksite Wellness 

Try these ideas to boost your wellness level for each dimension:

Emotional & Mental Well-Being

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Get in the zone with a positive state of mind. 

The emotional health dimension means you’re feeling good in your mind and your body. You feel safe and able to cope, with a sense of connection with people and your community.

Try this: 

  • Ask for help
  • Practice deep breathing for at least 5 minutes each day
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal
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Intellectual Well-Being

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Your mind needs exercise, too! Flex your brain.

The intellectual dimension recognizes the need to expand your knowledge, skills, and creative abilities.

Try this:

  • Boost learning and read or listen to a podcast
  • Enhance productivity and write a daily to-do list 
  • Organize your workspace
  • Complete a task you have been putting off
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Physical Well-Being

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Healthy lifestyle helps balance body, mind, and spirit.

The physical dimension includes lifestyle and behavior choices to ensure health, avoid preventable diseases, and to live in a balanced state of body, mind, and spirit.

Try this:

  • Take an activity break every hour and go for a walk, stretch, or take the stairs
  • Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water
  • Pack a healthy lunch that includes ½ cup fruit and ½ cup vegetables
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Social Well-Being

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It feels good to contribute and belong.

The social dimension encourages building connections to your environment and community, and helping out in society.

Try this:

  • Make time to meet a new person at the workplace
  • Attend workplace social events and connect with colleagues
  • Do something nice for a coworker such as sharing your appreciation for them
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Financial Well-Being

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Tackle financial stress by taking responsible steps toward future goals.

The financial dimension helps make sure that you can meet your current and ongoing financial obligations. It ensures that you’re secure in your financial future and are able to make choices that allow you to enjoy life.

Try this:

  • Track daily spending
  • Plan for retirement by exploring investment and savings opportunities
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Resources that Support Self-Care

Emotional

Intellectual

Physical

  • HealthySD – Provides information, inspiration, and tips on nutrition, physical activity, and health and wellness for all South Dakotans.
  • SDSU Extension Access SDSU Extension’s team of nutritionists and dietitians to learn about healthy and balanced nutrition, as well as programs and resources to help support good nutrition.
  • Better Choices, Better Health Offers chronic disease self-management education workshops that are designed to help adults living with ongoing physical and/or mental health conditions and caregivers understand how healthier choices can improve quality of life, boost self-confidence, and inspire positive lifestyle changes
  • 211 Helpline Center, Community Resources Volunteer or find help with food, clothing, shelter, education, employment, transportation, healthcare, mental health, suicide prevention, substance abuse, support groups or legal assistance. 
  • American Heart Association – Recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. Find out how to keep your heart healthy and stay hydrated.

Social

  • National Institutes of Health – Provides a Social Wellness Toolkit outlining six strategies for improving your social health in English & Spanish. 
  • 211 Helpline Center, Community Resources Volunteer or find help with food, clothing, shelter, education, employment, transportation, healthcare, mental health, suicide prevention, substance abuse, support groups or legal assistance.

Financial

Download and share the self-care at work infographic that outlines helpful tips on how to prioritize self-care at work:

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For more information about Worksite Wellness initiatives in South Dakota, contact us.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Workplace Health Model
  2. National Wellness Institute, The Six Dimensions of Wellness