Tag Archives: Fruit & Veggies

February Fruit of the Month: Cherry

The February Fruit of the Month is Cherry!

Depending on the variety, cherries can be sweet or sour. But that’s not the only reason to enjoy this fruit! Cherries help decrease stress, inflammation, and muscle soreness. Keep reading for more facts about cherries and how to get the entire family to enjoy them!

A Cherry is a Good Source of:

  • Antioxidants—improves heart and eye health
  • Potassium—alleviates hypertension and high blood pressure
  • Vitamin C—great for a healthy immune system
  • Copper—aids in production of red blood cells
  • Melatonin—for healthy sleep and wake cycles

Did You Know?

  • If you leave the stems attached to the cherry, they are less likely to mold quickly.
  • Cherries can help decrease arthritis symptoms.
  • In the US, sweet cherries are primarily grown in Washington, California, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Sour cherries are primarily grown in Michigan, New York, Utah, and Washington.

How to Choose and Store Cherries

Choose cherries that are firm, shiny, plump, and without bruises. Store unwashed cherries in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Wash before use.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Cherries

  • Blend in a fruit (and veggie!) smoothie
  • Top yogurt or nonfat ice cream with cherries
  • Mix in a fruit salsa
  • Let kids build their own salad, with cherries an a topping option

Ways to Prepare Cherries

  • Raw
  • Baked
  • Frozen (and blended in a smoothie)
  • Sauté
  • Jam or jelly

Let’s Get Cooking

Cherry Crisp

Topping Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Cherry Filling Ingredients

  • 2 cans cherries in water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cherry juice


  1. Grease a 9×9” pan
  2. Mix topping ingredients and set aside
  3. Drain cherries, saving ½-cup of the juice
  4. Place cherries in baking pan
  5. Mix cherry juice with sugar and orange juice in a saucepan. Heat on medium for 2 minutes.
  6. Mix cornstarch and water, then add to the juice mixture. Heat on medium until thick.
  7. Remove from heat and stir well
  8. Pour ⅔-cup of juice mixture over cherries in the pan. Discard the rest.
  9. Sprinkle topping over cherries
  10. Bake at 425°F for 40 minutes

Cherry Salad


  • ½ cup pitted and halved sweet cherries
  • 1 cup cantaloupe, cubed
  • 1 cup green grapes, cut in half
  • 1 medium banana, peeled and sliced
  • ¼ cup orange juice (juice from ½ orange)
  • ¼ cup flaked coconut (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the cut fruit.
  2. Pour orange juice over fruit and stir in coconut flakes, if desired.

For more creative cherry-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Cherry Puff Pancake, Cherry Pineapple Delight, and Slow Cooker Pork Stew Over Brown Rice you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Dr. Axe

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: Pear

The November Fruit of the Month is Pear!

The fruit that comes in second place as the most popular fruit in the US is pears (apples take first place)! Because of their many varieties and growing seasons, pears are available fresh and in abundance for most of the year including winter, when many other fruits are out of season. Keep reading for fun facts and ideas for how to include yummy pears in your diet!

A Pear is a Good Source of:

  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health
  • Potassium—helps body tissues and cell function
  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system
  • Vitamin K—aiding bone and brain health
  • Copper—combats inflammation and keeps nerve cells healthy

Did You Know?

  • Pears grow on trees and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, including green, golden yellow, and red.
  • The peel is good to eat and has many nutrients, but do not eat the seeds.
  • Pears have an antioxidant called “glutathione” that is known to help prevent cancer, high blood pressure, and stroke!
  • The first pear tree originated in present-day western China.

How to Choose and Store Pears

When purchasing fresh pears, choose ones that are firm with no soft spots, and then let them ripen at home. When the pear has reached peak ripeness the flesh next to the stem will yield gently to pressure. Store at room temperature in a paper bag until ripe. After the pears are ripe, store them in the refrigerator and eat within 5–7 days. Be careful! Pears bruise easily, and their bruises lead to rapid decay—so handle with care. Don’t forget that frozen and canned pears are healthy too!

Ways to Prepare Pears

  • Raw
  • Poach
  • Bake
  • Sauté
  • Pickle

Let’s Get Cooking

Breakfast Pear Parfait


  • 2 cups of cooked oatmeal
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt


  1. Put 1 cup of oatmeal into 2 small bowls.
  2. Add half of the chopped pears on top of the oats
  3. Top each bowl with ½ cup of low-fat yogurt.
  4. Mix if desired. 

Cobb Salad with Pears


  • 2 canned pear halves
  • 6 cups mixed baby salad greens
  • ½ tablespoon parmesan cheese
  • 1 ⅓ cup carrots, grated
  • 3 tablespoons walnuts


  • ¼ cup pear juice
  • ¼ teaspoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 dash salt and black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil


  1. For the dressing, mix pear juice, vinegar, honey, mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a blender.
  2. Put mixed greens in a large mixing bowl and mix the dressing in thoroughly.
  3. Add the chopped pears, walnuts, and grated carrots and toss lightly.
  4. Portion out 1 cup of salad for each serving, and top with ½ teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese.

For more creative pear-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Pear Quesadillas, Pear Party Salsa, and Pear PB&J Bouquet you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Dr. Axe

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 Veggie of the Month: Broccoli

The October Vegetable of the Month is Broccoli!

You might know broccoli for its strong taste and smell when cooked. This is because it’s considered a cruciferous vegetable—meaning it has sulfur-containing compounds. Not only does this create a boost for your senses, but it’s also a powerhouse for cancer prevention, lowering cholesterol, eye health, and more!

Broccoli is a Good Source of:

  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health
  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system
  • Vitamin K—aiding bone and brain health
  • Potassium—helps body tissues and cell function
  • Iron—improves muscle and brain function

Did You Know?

  • Compared to most vegetables, broccoli’s protein content is quite high—making up 29% of its weight!
  • Broccoli is part of the cabbage family.
  • Broccoli wasn’t well known in the United States until the 1920s.
  • One cup of broccoli only contains 55 calories!
  • If you have a lot of fresh broccoli and can’t get it eaten before it goes bad, blanch it and then freeze it! Blanch broccoli by boiling for 3 minutes or steaming for 5 minutes and then placing it in ice water immediately after. Blanching vegetables before freezing them is one of the best ways to preserve flavor, color, and nutrients.

When to Harvest and How to Store Broccoli

Broccoli is ready to eat when the buds are bright, tight, and compact. A sign the vegetable is going bad is when the buds start to appear yellow or brown, and take on a limp. Store broccoli in the refrigerator wrapped in damp paper towels or with the stem submerged in water. Never store in a sealed container, as it prefers air circulation!

Tips to Get Children to Eat Broccoli

  • Let them dip raw broccoli in their favorite condiment, like ranch dressing
  • Cut florets into small pieces and add to their favorite pasta sauce
  • Use a grater to shred into small piece and add to hamburger patties, meatballs, casserole-like dishes, or soups
  • Top roasted or steamed broccoli with melted cheese
  • Keep trying! Offer broccoli in different ways multiple times. It takes time for kids to warm up to certain foods. But the more you offer it the better the chance they will find a variation they like.

Ways to Prepare Broccoli

  • Raw
  • Steam
  • Sauté
  • Roast

Let’s Get Cooking

Steamed Broccoli with Dill Dressing


  • 1 bunch broccoli, about 2 pounds
  • 3 carrots
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed, or 3 teaspoons fresh dill


  1. Mix ingredients for the dill dressing and set aside (olive oil, black pepper, dill weed)
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil while preparing vegetables
  3. Rinse the broccoli, then trim and peel the stems. Cut the stem into 2-inch strips, then cut the florets into small uniform pieces and set aside
  4. Peel and cut the carrots into 2-inch strips
  5. When water is boiling, add carrots and broccoli stems to the water. Cook for 1 minute
  6. Add broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Be careful not to overcook
  7. Drain the water and rinse vegetables in cold water. Draining the vegetables again until all excess water is gone
  8. Place vegetables in a large bowl and gently toss with the dressing. Serve immediately

Broccoli Salad


  • 6 cups of broccoli (chopped)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 red onion (medium, peeled, and diced)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 bacon slices (cooked and crumbled)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise, low-fat


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing well
  2. Chill for 1–2 hours before serving

For more creative broccoli-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Cream of Broccoli Soup, Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, and a Broccoli Omelet you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Healthline, Dr. Axe

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!

September Veggie of the Month: Beet

Beets are the September Vegetable of the Month! Beets are a nutritious root vegetable that are flavorful, nutritious, and vibrant in color. When adding beets to your diet, get adventurous with it! From pickling, to adding to smoothies, or adding to salads, this powerhouse does it all!

A Beet is a Good Source of:

  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health
  • Folate—important for red blood cell formation and healthy cell growth
  • Manganese—great for healthy bones
  • Potassium—helps body tissues and cell function
  • Iron—improves muscle and brain function

Did You Know?

  • The leaves and root (the beet) are all edible raw or cooked!
  • Young or small beets are best raw, while medium and large-sized beets taste better when cooked.
  • Red beets can stain your skin! They even use beets to make red food coloring. When peeling beets, wear disposable gloves to avoid staining.
  • You can cook and eat beet greens like you would spinach!

How to Harvest and Store Beets

Pull the beets from the ground as soon as 45 days from planting. If you harvest “thinnings” or the beets before they are fully mature, they can be eaten raw and whole! Trim the leaves until they are about 1-inch from the root. The beetroot can be refrigerated for several weeks, while the leaves will only last for a few days. Store the root and leaves separately.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Beets

  • Make a beet kabob, including other fruits and veggies, with your kids!
  • Add to a smoothie, which will turn it a bright red/pink color!
  • Sprinkle roasted beets with cinnamon for a kid-friendly flavor.

Ways to Prepare Beets

  • Raw
  • Bake
  • Sauté
  • Steamed
  • Pickled
  • Microwave
  • Juice

Let’s Get Cooking

Beets with Dijon Dressing


  • 3 lbs beets
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard (or yellow prepared mustard)
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash, trim, and dry beets, leaving ½-inch stem and root intact.
  3. Put beets in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss the contents of the bowl with clean hands.
  4. Arrange beets in a single layer roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until the beets are tender.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool.
  6. Make the dressing while the beets are cooling. To make dressing, whisk mustard, orange juice, sugar, and vinegar together.
  7. Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil and rosemary. Set aside. 
  8. Rub skins off beets and cut into quarters.
  9. Combine with dressing and let sit for 30 minutes before eating.

Red Beet and Apple Salad


  • 1 large red beet or 2 small red beets
  • 4 apples
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey


  1. Wash the beet and peel if desired. If you peel the beet, it will taste less earthy.
  2. Grate the beet and the apples into a large bowl.
  3. For the dressing, mix the lemon juice, honey, and salt. Pour the dressing over the grated beet and apples.
  4. Mix well. Serve chilled.

For more creative beet-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Sautéed Beet Greens, Beet and White Bean Salad, and Pink Party Salad you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Gardening Know How

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!

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!
more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

August Fruit of the Month: Eggplant

The August Fruit of the Month is Eggplant!

Did you know eggplants grow on short vines, similar to tomato plants? But as you might have guessed, they do feel, look, and taste different! Eggplants have a soft, spongy flesh, with a pleasant bitter taste. When paired with other strong-flavored ingredients, eggplants can help balance the overall flavor of the entire dish. Keep reading to learn all about eggplants!

An Eggplant is a Good Source of:

  • Nasunin—fights free radical damage in the body
  • Manganese—great for healthy bones
  • Vitamin B1—for helping create a healthy metabolism
  • Vitamin B6—helps carry oxygen to the blood

Did You Know?

  • Most people think eggplants are a vegetable, however, because the plant has seeds it’s technically a fruit!
  • Eggplants are related to tomatoes and peppers—and are in the nightshade family.
  • Hundreds of years ago, eggplants were often white or yellow and resembled goose eggs—which is where the name came from!
  • Eggplants are in season during the late summer months or early fall.
  • There are lots of important nutrients, like nasunin, found in the dark purple skin!

How to Harvest and Store Eggplant

Eggplants are mature when the flesh is firm, and has a slight bounce to it when you touch it. If, when touched, a dent is left behind, the eggplant is too mature and should not be eaten. Eggplants can remain at room temperature for several days after harvesting.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Eggplant

  • Chop the eggplant into small pieces and incorporate into mixed dishes like a casserole
  • Cut the eggplant into long rectangular shapes so they resemble fries
  • Coat with breadcrumbs or batter before frying for a crispy exterior

Ways to Eat Eggplant

  • Sauté
  • Grill
  • Steam
  • Roast
  • Fry

Let’s Get Cooking

Easy Eggplant Stirfry


  • 2 eggplants, peeled and cubed
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup green bell paper, cut into strips
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp Italian salad dressing, low fat
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked


  1. Place the eggplant, zucchini, green bell pepper, onions, and salad dressing into a skillet.
  2. Stir lightly to combine and cook over low heat until tender.
  3. Stir in cherry tomatoes and cook for an additional 3–5 minutes.
  4. Serve over cooked brown rice.



  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bell peppers (any color)
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (15 ounces)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped


  1. Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan and sauté onion, garlic, bell peppers, and eggplant until tender—about 15 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and basil, cook for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add pepper and parsley right before serving.

For more creative eggplant-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Italian Style Summer Squash, Veggie Quesadillas, and Fall Veggie Casserole you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Dr. Axe

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!

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Are Frozen and Canned Produce Just as Healthy as Fresh Produce?

Yikes! Americans aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables. An easy way to keep your kitchen stocked with healthy meal options is to add frozen and canned produce to your pantry. This can also ensure you always have nutritious options available—on a budget!

A question we often hear is, “Are frozen and canned foods as healthy as fresh produce?” The short answer: yes!

Frozen and canned products have a longer shelf life than fresh produce, are just as tasty, and can be used in many ways. The nutritional content doesn’t change much with frozen and canned produce, but they may cook a little differently because the water content changes.

Let’s compare the difference between fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Produce

The advantage to fresh produce is that you can cook and eat the produce any way you like best! You can eat them raw (fresh), baked, sautéed, steamed or even blended in a smoothie. Plus, fresh produce is more portable—making easy snacking a breeze!

TIP! Try new-to-you fresh produce according to what’s in season! This will ensure you’re always getting a wide range of yummy nutrients all year long.

Shelf Life:

The shelf life for fresh produce can be tricky to calculate. It varies for each produce item and depends on if it’s stored properly. There are guides to help you determine the best time to enjoy fresh produce and how and where to store fresh foods.

Frozen Produce

Is it Nutritious?

Yes! Frozen fruits and vegetables are packed at peak freshness. This means all the nutrients are locked in at the time of freezing and packaging.

Shelf Life:

  • Frozen vegetables should be eaten within 8 months of purchase.
  • Frozen fruit should be eaten within 12 months of purchase (4–6 months for citrus fruits).

Canned Produce

Is it Nutritious?

Yes! Canning fruits and vegetables locks in the nutrients at the peak of freshness—or at the time of canning, if you’re canning yourself. Canning produce can even make the nutrients easier for your body to absorb the nutrients. This is the case with canned beans and tomatoes. Plus, canned produce can help families who are on a budget!

Shelf Life

  • High acidic foods like tomatoes are best within 18 months
  • Low acidic foods like meat or vegetables are best within 2–5 years
  • Home-canned foods should be used within 1 year

For healthier options, make sure to choose canned fruit that is stored in 100% juice. Avoid options canned in light or heavy syrup—that’s code for extra sugar!

Safety tip! Never eat food from cans that are leaking, bulging, badly dented, have a foul odor, or spurt liquid when opening. This can be a sign of a bacteria that causes botulism, which can make you extremely sick.

Remember—fruit and vegetables are always a good idea. Include fruits and vegetables in your diet, whether they are fresh, frozen, or canned! Don’t be afraid to try something new and change up what you’re eating day-to-day. The more variety the better your chance of getting all the nutrients you need!

Sources: Have a Plant, Have a Plant, USDA, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association

June Fruit of the Month: Strawberry

The June Fruit of the Month is Strawberry!

It’s hard to imagine someone who doesn’t love strawberries, but in case you need convincing, this information is for you! The strawberry fruit is a versatile berry that can be eaten raw or cooked—though it’s eaten raw most often. Talk about an easy snack! They’re low-carb and rich in fiber and antioxidants (among many other goodies!), making them a nutritional haven for both adults and children!

A Strawberry is a Great Source of:

  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system
  • Folate—important for red blood cell formation and healthy cell growth
  • Potassium—helps body tissues and cell function
  • Manganese—great for healthy bones
  • Fiber—essential for healthy gut bacteria and digestive health

Did You Know?

  • Studies show that eating strawberries increases heart health!
  • Strawberries are related to roses.
  • Because the strawberry plant doesn’t have a woody stem, they are classified as an herb.

How to Harvest and Store Strawberries

Strawberries should be shiny and bright red when ready to eat. Avoid eating if they are moldy or wrinkled. Before eating, wash, drain, and dry your strawberries. Refrigerate strawberries for up to one week. You can also freeze strawberries for long-term storage.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Strawberries

  • Let them help you harvest
  • Make a kabob with other fruit and veggies
  • Add to blended smoothies
  • Top your oatmeal or yogurt with strawberries

Ways to Prepare Strawberries

  • Raw
  • Blend or Purée
  • Bake
  • Sauté

Let’s Get Cooking

Berries with Banana Cream


  • ⅓ cup yogurt, low-fat plain
  • ½ ripe banana
  • ½ ounce orange juice
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


  1. Combine yogurt, banana, and juice. Mash with a fork until most chunks are gone.
  2. Place strawberries in a bowl and top with the yogurt banana mixture.
  3. Top with honey and cinnamon and enjoy!

Fruit and Yogurt Breakfast Shake


  • 1 ripe banana
  • ¾ cup pineapple juice
  • ½ cup yogurt, low-fat vanilla
  • ½ cup strawberries, stems removed


  1. Blend the banana, pineapple juice, yogurt, and strawberries in a blender until smooth.
  2. Divide between 2 glasses and serve immediately.

For more creative strawberry-based recipes and information visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Broccoli Strawberry Orzo Salad, Strawberry S’Mores, and Whole Grain Strawberry Pancakes you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Healthline, StrawberryPlants.org

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!

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May Veggie of the Month: Artichoke

The May Veggie of the Month is Artichoke!

Artichokes may feel a bit alien at first, but they can be fun and delicious! Not to mention, it’s one of the top vegetables containing the most antioxidants, keeping the whole family strong and healthy.

Artichoke is a Great Source of:

  • Fiber—great for liver and digestive health
  • Iron—improves muscle and brain function
  • Antioxidants—for a boost to the immune system
  • Vitamin A—for cell health
  • Vitamin K—aiding bone and brain health

Did You Know?

  • Artichokes are a staple health food within the Mediterranean diet.
  • The artichoke plant can grow to be six feet in diameter and up to four feet tall!
  • There are 140 different species of artichokes, but only 40 are grown commercially as food.
  • The edible part of the artichoke is a flower bud before it begins to bloom!

How to Harvest and Store Artichoke

Ready-to-eat artichokes should be firm, compact, and heavy with an even, bright green color. You want to avoid black bruises or a purple tint. To safely store, cut off the bottom stem from the artichoke, sprinkle with water and place in an airtight bag for 5-7 days. Before cooking, cut off the thorny leaf tips with a kitchen scissors and remove any dry leaves completely.

How to Eat Artichoke

Remove the individual leaves and use your teeth to remove (and eat!) the softer flesh. Discard the leaves after you have removed the soft flesh.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Artichoke

  • Under a guardian’s supervision, have your child help prepare the artichoke before cooking. They can help peel off dry leaves or even cut off the thorny leaf tips with safety scissors!
  • Let them dip the artichoke in their favorite dips or condiments like butter, cheese, or ranch.
  • Because you use your teeth to remove the soft flesh of the artichoke, they are generally more fun for kids to eat. Make it an adventure!

Ways to Eat Artichoke

  • Boil
  • Steam
  • Microwave
  • Sauté
  • Roast

Let’s Get Cooking

Spring Vegetable Soup


  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 2.5 cups vegetable juice, low-sodium
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté the cabbage, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and peas for 10 minutes.
  2. Add vegetable juice and water. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and add basil. Let simmer for 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
  4. Serve in individual serving bowls and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stuffed Artichokes


  • 4 large artichokes
  • 3 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper


  1. Cut 1” off the top of the artichoke with a serrated knife and snap off any dry or tough leaves. Use a kitchen scissors to trim off any thorny leaf tips. Remove the stems.
  2. Combine the breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, parmesan, pecorino, parsley and olive oil in a bowl.
  3. Separate the leaves on the artichoke to give them some breathing room. Stuff the crumb mixture between each leaf.
  4. Stand upright in a steamer basket over simmering water. Cover and steam over medium-low heat until tender (add more water if needed), about 1 hour 20 minutes. 
  5. Remove from basket and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  6. Serve while warm.

For more creative artichoke-based recipes and information visit this Pick it! Try it! article from South Dakota State University Extension.

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Nutrition and You

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!

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Fresh, Frozen and Canned ALL Count

Eat 5 a day by filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables each meal.


Fresh fruits and vegetables don’t have to be expensive if you buy them in season and many are in season year round. To learn more, visit www.sdharvestofthemonth.com.


Frozen fruits and vegetables are packed and frozen within hours of harvest, so they don’t lose their flavor or nutritional value. Try steaming vegetables in the microwave or stovetop rather than boiling to keep in more nutrients.


Canned fruits and vegetables often get a bad rap but they are still nutritious. Choose 100% fruit juice with no added sugar and vegetables with no salt added. Remember to drain the water, juice or syrup and rinse with water to help remove some of the extra sugar and salt.

Have You had Your 5 Today?

2 fruits + 3 vegetables are ideal for a balanced diet!

Promoting fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables

Download images here.

April Veggie of the Month: Asparagus

The April Veggie of the Month is Asparagus!

Asparagus is a stalk-y vegetable that is both nutritious and delicious! It has the potential to grow super fast—up to 10 inches a day—and with all its nutrients, your children may just have a healthy growth-spurt of their own! Once they experience the crunchy, subtly-sweet taste of asparagus, they’ll be coming back for seconds!

Asparagus is a Great Source of:

  • Iron—to make red blood cells, muscles, and carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • Fiber—a needed nutrient to stay “regular.”
  • Antioxidants—for a boost to the immune system!
  • Vitamin K—aiding bone and brain health
  • Copper—for healthy red blood cells and nerve cells.

Did You Know?

  • Asparagus is a vegetable that grows wild. You just have to know which ditch or other grassy area to look in!
  • Asparagus is a perennial, which means, when taken care of, it will continue to come back year after year!
  • The asparagus was once a delicacy for the Greeks and Romans.
  • Asparagus is part of the Asparagaceae family, making it a cousin to onions, garlic, tulips, and even daffodils!”
  • After you eat asparagus, it has the potential to make your urine smell a little strange! Don’t worry, it’s completely normal and the odor will go away!

How to Harvest and Store Asparagus

When harvesting or shopping, choose asparagus stalks that are firm and even in color—avoid stalks that are wilted and dry. Both thick and thin stems of asparagus are okay to eat! Whether you picked your own asparagus or bought it from the store, you’ll want to rinse it with water when you get home. To store, trim the bottom of the stalks (optional) and set inside a glass with 1–2 inches of fresh water. Cover with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 2–3 days.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Asparagus

  • Make finding asparagus an adventure! If you grow asparagus in your garden or know a local spot where it grows in the wild, let your children help harvest! They’ll be much more excited to try the veggie once it’s cooked if they’ve lent a helpful hand!
  • The flavor and texture is most liked when asparagus is cooked briefly and still has a little bit of a crunch to it!

Ways to Eat Asparagus

  • Sauté
  • Steam
  • Boil
  • Grill
  • Roast

Let’s Get Cooking

Sautéed Asparagus with Mushrooms


  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tbps. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped (or ½ tsp dried)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Ice water


  1. In a large skillet, bring 2 inches of water to boil with salt. Prepare ice water, set aside.
  2. Add asparagus to boiling water, cook for 4–5 minutes, until barely tender.
  3. Remove spears from the water, and place in ice water to cool. Once cool, drain the water, and set the asparagus aside.
  4. Heat oil over medium-high heat in the skillet. Add mushrooms, asparagus, thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.
  5. Cook until mushrooms are wilted and asparagus is heated through (about 3–4 minutes). Serve warm or chilled.

Asparagus with Gremolata Souce


  • 2 cups asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. lemon peel, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, large, minced
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice, fresh


  1. Cook asparagus in a large pot of boiling water until tender, about 4 minutes
  2. Drain, rinse with cold water to cool quickly
  3. Pat dry and wrap asparagus in a paper towel, then plastic wrap and refrigerate
  4. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  5. Add lemon peel and garlic and stir for 30 seconds
  6. Add asparagus and toss to coat
  7. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Sauté until asparagus is heated through and coated with the Gremolata sauce (butter, lemon peel, garlic, and lemon juice), about 3 minutes
  8. Transfer to a plater and serve.


For more creative asparagus-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Grilled Asparagus and Shrimp Quinoa Salad, Pasta Primavera, and Spring Vegetable Sauté, you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Nutrition and You


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!

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March Veggie of the Month: Cooked Greens

The March Veggie of the Month is Cooked Greens!

Cooked greens can include a variety of (green!) leafy vegetables like collard, mustard, kale, swiss chard, spinach, and bok choy! Their super power is that they are rich in antioxidants, which help fight aging and disease. The darker the color, the higher levels of antioxidants the vegetable has!

While each nutrient make-up is different for each type of green, leafy cooked greens are often rich in:

  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system.
  • Vitamin E—great for eye health.
  • Vitamin A—for cell health.
  • Vitamin K—known to help decrease the risk of certain cancers.

Did You Know?

  • When you cook leafy greens, the taste of the vegetable changes and more of the nutrients become available to your digestive system!
  • Cooked greens are low in sugar, carbohydrates, sodium, and cholesterol!
  • Dandelion greens are edible (yes the weed) and enhance heart and liver health! If you’re picking dandelion greens from the lawn, make sure they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides that can make you sick!

How to Harvest and Store Cooked Greens

Keep unwashed greens in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer for 3 days, or 5 days if wrapped in a wet paper towel. Edible greens will have fresh, green leaves. Do not eat leaves that appear wilted or yellow in color to avoid rot.

Tips to Get Children to Eat Cooked Greens

  • Add to sandwiches and wraps
  • Toss into a green smoothie
  • Make a fun kabob stick with their favorite foods
  • Add to a breakfast omelet

Ways to Eat Cooked Greens

  • Steam
  • Sauté
  • Bake
  • Boil

Let’s Get Cooking

Wilted Swiss Chard with Garlic


  • 2 lbs. swiss chard, cleaned and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh lemon juice, optional


  1. Rinse the greens in several changes of cold water
  2. Remove the stems and chop them into 1-inch pieces, set aside
  3. Stack the leaves and roll them into a tube shape
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut across each tube until all the greens are chopped
  5. Heat a skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat with olive oil and minced garlic. Add the wet swiss chard, one handful at a time and stir after each addition
  6. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook the greens for about 5 minutes, keeping the bright color
  7. Remove the lid and cook over medium-high heat until all the liquid has evaporated (about 2-3 minutes)
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired

Garlic Bok Choy


  • 1 bok choy (1 pound)
  • 5 cloves garlic (use 4-6 cloves, minced or 1–1 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder)
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp. salt


  1. Cut the bok choy crosswise into easy-to-eat pieces
  2. In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, saute garlic in oil until fragrant. If using garlic powder, add with salt in the next step
  3. Add bok choy and stir quickly, add salt, and stir until greens are wilted and stem pieces are tender-crisp
  4. Serve hot

For more creative parsnip-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Collard Green Gumbo, Seared Greens, and Smothered Greens, you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, MyPlate Kitchen, Dr. Axe


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!

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February Veggie of the Month: Parsnip

The February Veggie of the Month is Parsnip!

Parsnips can be used much like any root vegetable (think carrots and potatoes). They actually look a lot like creamy colored carrots, but they do taste a little different. Parsnips have a naturally sweet, nutty, and peppery flavor—and they smell more like celery. You can cook them in lots of different ways, add them to soups, casseroles, or prepare as an easy side dish kids will love. If you’re ready to experiment with parsnips, a good rule of thumb is to use them the same way you would normally prepare potatoes or carrots.

A Parsnip is a Great Source of:

  • Manganese—great for healthy bones.
  • Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant for your immune system.
  • Vitamin K—known to help decrease the risk of certain cancers.
  • Vitamin B9—can help with mental and emotional disorders like anxiety and depression.

Did You Know?

  • Parsnips were used as a sweetening agent before cane sugar became a major import.
  • Like potatoes, parsnips can be stored for long periods of time—making them a handy go-to pantry item.
  • They naturally increase your ability to produce serotonin—which is known as the “happy” hormone.
  • Parsnips have powerful anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and antifungal qualities.
  • They are packed with different minerals and vitamins—perfect if you are looking for nutrient-rich foods to add to your diet.
  • In Britain and Ireland, parsnips are used to make beer and wine.

How to Harvest and Store Parsnips

Consider adding parsnips to your vegetable garden mix. Pick when firm and dry. If you wait to harvest after the parsnips have been in the cold (after the first frost) for 2-4 weeks, the flavor will be sweeter. Store in the refrigerator in an unsealed bag for 3+ weeks. 

If a raw parsnip becomes soft and squishy, this is a sign of rot and it should no longer be eaten. For better flavor, cook the parsnip with the skin on—after cooking, you have the option to eat the skin or not!

Tips to Get Children to Eat Parsnips

  • Cook and mash, then mix with potatoes for an extra flavorful mashed potato and parsnip blend
  • Cut into sticks, and fry or roast as french fries
  • Chop and blend in your preferred soup or stew

Ways to Eat Parsnips

  • Raw
  • Boiled
  • Sautéd 
  • Fried
  • Roasted

Let’s Get Cooking

Mashed Parsnips and Potatoes


  • 2 cups parsnips
  • 3 medium potatoes (1 pound)
  • ½ cup low-fat milk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp butter


  1. Scrub parsnips and potatoes under running water and peel
  2. Cut into similar sized pieces
  3. In a medium saucepan, cover the vegetable pieces with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft, 15–20 minutes.
  4. Drain the vegetables and mash.
  5. Stir in milk, salt, garlic powder, and butter.
  6. Serve hot and refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours

Harvest Vegetable Salad


  • 2 cups romaine lettuce (washed)
  • 1 cup cilantro (washed)
  • 1 cup parsnips (peeled)
  • 1 cup carrot (peeled)
  • 1 cup turnips (peeled)

Dressing Ingredients

  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ½ tsp lime zest (grated)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil


  1. Combine romaine lettuce and cilantro, and divide on four plates
  2. Place parsnips, carrots, and turnips into 1 quart of boiling water. Return water to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Strain the water and vegetable mixture in a colander
  4. Mix the ingredients for the dressing right before serving
  5. Place hot vegetables on top of the greens and top with the dressing


For more creative parsnip-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Parsnip Soup, Roasted Root Vegetable blend, and a Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Potato, and Chicken dish, you’re sure to find something that is tasty for the whole family!

Fact Check: SDSU Extension, Health Benefits Times, MyPlate Kitchen


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!

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January Veggie of the Month: Spinach

The January Veggie of the Month is Spinach!

Spinach is one of the few vegetables that are available year-round. It can be prepared and eaten in many different ways, but it has the most nutrients when eaten fresh! Spinach is a versatile vegetable that accounts for 100% of the daily value of vitamin A, which helps the health of your eyes, skin, and hair.

Spinach is a Great Source of:

  • Vitamin A—great for your eyes, skin, and hair
  • Vitamin K—builds strong bones by helping calcium adhere to your bones
  • Vitamin C—helps heal wounds and bruises and controls cholesterol levels
  • Vitamin E—helps keep your tissues healthy and supports immune system
  • Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6—helps reduce stress and depression, and promotes healthy brain cells

Did You Know?

  • Popeye was on to something! Ounce for ounce—there’s more iron in spinach than there is in ground beef.
  • Spinach is one of the few vegetables that is available year-round. It grows best in cool, not freezing, moist conditions, especially during spring and autumn. It grows well in sandy soils.
  • March 26th is National Spinach Day. Celebrate with your favorite spinach recipe!
  • For many years in the 1930s and 1940s, spinach was ranked as the third most popular children’s food after turkey and ice cream.
  • California is the number 1 U.S. grower/supplier of fresh and processed spinach, accounting for almost 75% of the national production. You can find processed spinach frozen, puréed, canned, and in baby food!

How to Prepare and Store Spinach

Tear off the stem and separate the leaves. Place in a large bowl of water; let any sand drift to the bottom of the bowl and remove the leaves from the water. Repeat until the leaves are clean. To keep it fresh, store the spinach in an open bag in the refrigerator vegetable tray/drawer.

Realistic Ways to Get Children to Eat Spinach

There’s a reason why children prefer sweet-tasting foods over vegetables. Until late adolescence our taste receptors are more sensitive to bitter tasting foods, meaning many vegetables can taste unpleasant to children. So how do we get children to eat nutritious spinach?

Two strategies to try are:

  • Introduce spinach in small amounts continuously. Repetition is key. The more your child sees spinach, the more likely they’ll get curious and adventurous with the vegetable. Example: use a small amount in a homemade soup or salsa!
  • Hide spinach in other foods that generously help eliminate the natural bitter flavor. Example: use it in a fun fruit-based smoothie!

Ways to Eat Spinach

  1. Raw
  2. Steamed
  3. Microwaved
  4. Sautéed
  5. Stir fried

Let’s Get Cooking

Orange Sunrise Smoothie


  • ½ ripe banana
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ½ cup spinach leaves, rinsed
  • ½ cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)


  1. Blend all the ingredients until smooth
  2. Serve and enjoy!


Spinach Salsa


  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 cup spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • ½ sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tsp cilantro
  • 1 tsp tabasco (optional)


  1. Combine all the ingredients and serve with whole wheat tortilla chips

For more creative spinach-based recipes visit MyPlate Kitchen! With so many possibilities, like Lemon Spinach, Grapefruit Spinach Salad (double dose of vitamins), and Spinach Stuffed Potatoes, there’s sure to be a recipe or two that will make any family smile.


Fact Check: SDSU Extension, South Dakota Harvest of the Month, Science 2.0, Famlii

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!

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December Veggie 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!


  • 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)


  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


  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:


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.

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!

August Veggie of the Month: Sweet Corn

The August Veggie of the Month is Sweet Corn!

If you live in South Dakota, you’re likely an old pro at that time-honored road trip conversation: how good (or not good) the cornfields look. Corn is South Dakota’s top-produced crop — and it’s not just food for cows or fuel for your car. It’s a healthy meal staple to bridge the culinary gap from summer to fall.

Corn is native to the Americas. The Native Americans passed it along to Christopher Columbus, who brought it back to Spain. Today, it’s still a great source of B vitamins for energy, fiber for better digestion, and antioxidants to reduce your risk of disease.

Sweet corn is harvested in August and September. Even though you can freeze it to enjoy all year long, it’s at its best when it’s fresh off the stalk!

Corn you believe it?

  • Ears of corn dating back 8,000 years have been discovered in Mexican caves.
  • Sweet corn wasn’t developed until the 1700s. Native Americans ate what we know now as field corn, or corn that wasn’t harvested until their kernels were dry. On the other hand, sweet corn is picked when the kernels are soft and the plant is still green.
  • People grow corn on every continent of the world except for Antarctica.
  • Most corn grown in the United States doesn’t feed people. It’s food for cattle, hogs, poultry, and sheep.
  • Each kernel of corn on a cob is actually a whole fruit! A kernel is a type of fruit called caryopsis — a fruit with one single seed.

Six ways to eat more corn

  1. Dice things up. Make your own salsa at home with whole corn kernels, diced onion and tomato, lime juice, cilantro, and jalapeños or chili powder if you’re feeling fiery.
  2. Tip-top toppings. Butter is a traditional corn on the cob topping, but you can make it even healthier by cutting the butter with roasted garlic, lemon zest, or spices like paprika or cumin.
  3. Fit in some fruit. Put together a surprisingly tasty salad with boiled corn, chopped apples, spinach, bell pepper. Mix in lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  4. Chow down. As the days get shorter and the weather gets cooler, keep the warmth going with some corn chowder.
  5. Corn-sider yourself prepared. Keep a bag of corn (whole or shucked) in the freezer for quick additions to soups, salads, or hotdishes all the time.
  6. Let’s taco ’bout it. Make corn an add-on at taco nights. Season it with salt and lime ahead of time, and boom! You’re cooking with gas — ethanol, that is.

Fact check: Mayo Clinic Health System, Healthline, University of Maine Extension, University of Illinois Extension, North Dakota State University

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!


May Veggie of the Month: Peas

The May Veggie of the Month is Peas!

To keep our diets and ourselves healthy, we need to eat a variety of protein foods including seafood, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. You might wonder – what does this have to do with peas? Well, legumes include kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans, lentils and, you guessed it…peas! Peas are a part of the protein food group AND the vegetable group!

Peas are high in fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. They’re also super sources of folate, a B-vitamin that helps maintain energy and form red blood cells. Folate is especially important for babies, adolescents, and pregnant women!

Did you know?

  • You can eat peas whether they’re cooked or raw.
  • Peas often grow on a vine supported by a pole.
  • Green peas are sometimes called sweet peas or English peas.
  • Snow pea pods are thin and tender. They’re eaten when there are still only tiny traces of peas inside. This type of pea is usually associated with Asian cuisine.
  • Sugar snap peas are eaten when the peas inside are nearly mature and the pods are tender and juicy, similar to snap beans.

Tips for pickin’ (and keepin’) peas

  • When picking peas in the garden, choose firm and bright peas that have no sign of decay or wilting.
  • Store peas in a perforated plastic bag for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Shell them just before using.
  • Remove peas from the shell by pulling the string down the length of the pod and pushing out the peas with your thumb.

Five ways to pep up your meals with peas

  1. Snack it to me. Fresh raw peas are an easy on-the-go snack.
  2. Dish it out. Cooked peas are a great – and colorful! – addition to a hotdish.
  3. Presto, pesto! Toss some thawed frozen peas, mint, a few garlic cloves, black pepper, and grated parmesan cheese in the food processor. Add olive oil as you combine the ingredients and make an unexpected pesto to eat as a dip or spread.
  4. Go green. Add peas to any soup or stew to pump up the protein.
  5. Pasta pizzazz. Sprinkle some cooked peas into your favorite pasta dish.

Sources: Eat Well, Live Well Campaign, Pick It! Try It! Like It!Fruits & Veggies More Matters, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, University of Minnesota Extension, & University of Maryland Extension

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April Fruit of the Month: Plums

The April Fruit of the Month is Plums!

They’re plum terrific! One medium-sized plum is a great source of Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body heal from cuts and wounds, and helps you absorb more iron from your food. Plums are also full of fiber and Vitamin A.

Dried plums are called prunes. The pit is removed and the fruit is dehydrated. Prunes are an excellent source of fiber. Dried fruit should be consumed in smaller portions than the fresh versions of fruit. Two medium size plums are a serving of the fresh fruit while ¼ cup of dried plums (prunes) is a serving in the dried version.

When buying plums, choose plump plums with smooth skins. Make sure to avoid bruises and soft spots! Store unripe plums in a paper bag until they’re ripe, then refrigerate them.

Fun Facts:

  • A “plumcot” is 50% plum and 50% apricot.
  • An “aprium” is 75% apricot and 25% plum.
  • A “pluot” is 75% plum and 25% apricot.
  • Wild plum trees are symbolic of independence.
  • Luther Burbank brought twelve plum seeds back from Japan, now almost all plums grown in the United States are related to those seeds.

Top 10 Ways To Enjoy Plums:

  1. Plum dippers. Choose the largest plums you can find and cut into thin slices. Dip in low-fat vanilla or honey yogurt for an easy finger food that your kids will love!
  2. Violet smoothie. Freeze pitted plums and toss them into a blender along with other frozen fruits. Add 100% fruit juice and blend away for a tangy frozen treat.
  3. Plums and couscous. Combine whole wheat couscous, apples, lemon juice, and dried plums to create an aromatic salad that can be served as a light main course for lunch or as a side dish with grilled steak or salmon.
  4. Trail mix. Cut dried plums into the size of raisins and create a trail mix with almonds, whole grain cereal, granola, and other dried fruits.
  5. Main course. Stir-fry meals pack all ingredients into one delicious main course. Combine a lean protein, walnuts, brown rice, celery, peppers, and other favorite fruits and vegetables, then mix in ginger and low-sodium soy sauce … and enjoy!
  6. By the bite. Enjoy plums as nature intended, right off the tree!
  7. Plum kabob. Ever tasted a warm plum? Layer plums with bell peppers, red onions, corn, and boneless chicken, then lightly coat with low-sodium soy sauce and heat on the grill or oven until chicken is cooked.
  8. Purple salad. Plums brighten up any salad! Combine them with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, oranges, honey, and mint to make an appetizing salad for dessert or a snack!
  9. Drizzle ’em. For a late night treat or early morning delight, drizzle puréed plum sauce made with a small amount of 100% juice and vanilla extract over hot oatmeal, waffles, pancakes, or low-fat frozen yogurt or ice cream.
  10. Plum chutney. Chutney is great on whole wheat crackers, freshly baked bread, or with vegetables. Pack it for a picnic or serve it as an appetizer.

Learn more about plums with this Pick It! Try It! Like It! fact sheet.

Fact check: South Dakota Harvest of the Month, Fruit & Veggies: More Matters

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October Veggie of the Month: Tomatoes

The October Vegetable of the Month is Tomatoes!

This fruit is amazing…wait, fruit? That’s right, tomatoes are technically a fruit, but most people consider them part of the vegetable family because of their hearty flavor. Remember, whether it’s a fruit or vegetable, it’s good for you! Aim for 5 – 9 fruits and vegetables each day!

Did you know…
  • Tomatoes are chock full of essential Vitamins C, A, and B6, along with iron, potassium, manganese, and fiber.
  • One cup of canned tomatoes contains only 41 calories and no fat.
  • Tomatoes are rich in powerful antioxidants called carotenoids that protect against certain types of cancers and slow the development of atherosclerosis (plaque associated with hardening of arteries).
  • The most abundant type of carotenoid found in tomatoes is lycopene. Foods high in lycopene may help reduce the risk for prostate, digestive, and pancreatic cancers. Tomato products are responsible for more than 80% of the lycopene in the U.S. diet.
  • Tomato products also fight inflammation associated with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
  • Check out these helpful tips about tomato selection, storage and prep.
9 ways to enjoy tomatoes
  1. Healthy tomato vinaigrette. In a blender combine a chopped tomato, 2 Tablespoons of vinegar (white wine or balsamic), 1 Tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon dijon mustard and your favorite herbs (basil, thyme, etc). Enjoy!
  2. Quick tomato salad. Quarter tomatoes and marinate with onion in your favorite low-fat vinaigrette. Add some sliced cucumber for some extra crunch.
  3. Stuffed tomato. Stuff a tomato with low-fat cottage cheese or with tuna, shrimp or chicken salad. Use the pulp as part of the salad.
  4.  Stewed tomato side dish. Saute 1 small diced onion in 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Mix in dried or chopped fresh basil and a dash of salt and pepper. Add coarsely chopped, peeled tomatoes (about 6) and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5.  Tangy salsa. Make it yourself with chopped fresh tomatoes, finely chopped jalapeño peppers, chopped cucumber, 1 small onion, chopped cilantro and lime juice. Can also be used on top of greens or as a salad by itself. Be creative and add other ingredients such as black beans, corn or chopped olives.
  6. Baked tomato side dish. Slice tomatoes about ½ inch thick. Sprinkle with seasoned breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 until tomatoes are almost soft.
  7. Gazpacho. Finely dice fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, green onion, and green and/or red peppers. Add to tomato juice with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil and a splash of cider vinegar. Ingredients can be added to a blender and pulsed one or two times.
  8. Beyond tomato sauce. Slice fresh tomatoes and top your pizza.
  9. Fresh and sweet. Right off the vine!

Learn more about tomatoes and get an authentic Mexican recipe for fresh tomato salsa with this Pick It! Try It! Like It! fact sheet.

Don’t stop there! Find ways to promote tomatoes at your work, school, childcare and in your community!

Sources: Eat Well, Live Well Campaign, Fruits & Veggies More Matters, & Penn 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!

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September Veggie of the Month: Rhubarb

The September Vegetable of the Month is Rhubarb!

The first thing to know about rhubarb is that only the stalks of the rhubarb plant can be safely eaten. Rhubarb leaves (cooked or raw) contain toxins that are poisonous.

Did you know…

  • Rhubarb is in season during the spring and summer.
  • The best stalks are firm and red, not curled or limp. Rhubarb is tart, but red stalks will taste sweeter and richer while green stalks may be more sour.
  • Rhubarb is often grown in gardens, but can grow successfully in most areas of a person’s backyard. It can also be spotted around farm buildings and barns.
  • It is most often cooked, but the stalks can be eaten raw.
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rhubarb equals 1 serving of vegetables—and remember, we want to get at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day!
  • Because of its tart flavor, sugar is often added. However, a serving of rhubarb without sugar is only 29 calories! An alternative to adding sugar is to combine with sweeter fruits such as strawberries.

Want to start growing rhubarb in your backyard or garden? Great! Rhubarb grows well in most of the United States. If planting in a garden, plant where it will not be disturbed as it will likely come back each year for five years or sometimes much longer! In South Dakota, it’s best to take a pre-established rhubarb plant and divide the roots. Well-established roots can be dug up and divided into 4 to 8 pieces and replanted in other areas as long as each piece has at least one strong bud. So share with your neighborhood and community! Planting seeds is not recommended except in extremely southern areas of the United States.

Find out more about when to plant, spacing, depth, care, and harvesting and check out this video for helpful tips on freezing for future use.

Learn more about rhubarb and get Avera McKennan’s Executive Chef Drew Laberis’ Easy Rhubarb Lentil Salad recipe with this Pick It! Try It! Like It! fact sheet.

Don’t stop there! Find ways to promote rhubarb at your work, school, childcare, and in your community!

Sources: Eat Well, Live Well Campaign, Pick It! Try It! Like It!Fruits & Veggies More MattersThe University of Maine Cooperative Extension, University of Illinois 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!

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July Fruit of the Month: Watermelon

The July Fruit of the Month is Watermelon!

Did you know…

While most of us can’t think of watermelon without thinking of summer get-togethers, watermelon’s place at American picnic tables is only the most recent development in the history of this amazing fruit.

Originating in southern Africa (where it grows wild), watermelon eventually found its way to ancient Egypt, where it was first grown as far back as 2000 B.C. In fact, watermelon seeds were discovered in King Tut’s tomb! Spreading from Egypt, this fantastic fruit could then be found in the Middle East and India in the 7th century, and then as far away as Spain and China. Europeans eventually brought the watermelon to North, Central, and South America in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, it’s one of the most popular fruits in the world.

In addition to being quite the well-traveled fruit, watermelon is incredibly good for you. It has a high water content and provides decent amounts of the electrolyte potassium—so not only will watermelon hydrate you, but it’s great for balancing the water content in your cells and fighting off cramps—yet another reason to have watermelon on hand at the beach, lake, or poolside! Watermelon also has plenty of vitamin A (good for skin, eyes, white blood cells), vitamin C (a natural antioxidant), and B6 (good for nerves, blood, antibodies, and protein digestion).

In terms of nutrition, watermelon claims one of the top spots for lycopene content (only guava and a few others have more lycopene per serving). Adding more watermelon to your diet is a surefire way to get more of this essential antioxidant.

So… “How do I pick the best melon?”

It’s actually easier than you think! First, check the field spot (the lighter part of the melon that rested on the ground during its growth). Is the field spot cream-yellow (good) or orange-yellow (better)? Then it’s ripe. And don’t shy away from “webbing.” The dark brown splotches that “web” over parts of some melons aren’t a bad sign—they’re actually proof of how many times the flower was pollinated by bees! More pollination, more webbing… better melon. Shape is important too—the rounder the melon, the less watery and more sweet it will be. The melon should also feel heavy for its size, and sound hollow when knocked or thwacked. Finally, pay attention to the stem. Larger, green stems indicate the melon was picked too soon. Look for a smaller, drier, brownish stem.

Learn more about watermelon, and grab a delicious watermelon smoothie recipe with this Pick It! Try It! Like It! fact sheet.

Don’t stop there! Find ways to promote watermelon and other amazing fruits & veggies at your work, school, childcare, and in your community!

Eat Well, Live Well Campaign, Pick It! Try It! Like It!Fruits & Veggies More Matters,
CDC’s table of most nutrient-dense fruits & veggies, National Watermelon Board

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!

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Tips for Shopping at Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are a wonderful part of summer that give us the opportunity to enjoy fresh, local produce and meet the people who grow it! Shopping at a farmers market is a little different than the grocery store. Here are some tips to make your trip successful and fun:

1.) Plan ahead. Bring a list of what foods you need and scope out the market’s website or event guide to give you an idea of what is offered.

2.) Bring your own bag. Having a bag that can go on your shoulder will help keep your hands free. Or try a backpack!

3.) Get to know your local farmers. Take this opportunity to meet your local farmers and producers in a relaxed setting. Use this time to have a conversation with the people responsible for growing or making your food. Farmers enjoy getting to know you and appreciate your interest in their crops.

4.) Try something new and ask questions. Challenge yourself to try at least one new food item. Not sure how to incorporate that purple potato into a dish your family would like? Ask the individuals selling the foods; they are a wealth of knowledge for various ideas of how to use their food as ingredients in your recipes. Some even have recipes available for you to take home.

5.) Follow the MyPlate method. Most farmers markets offer a wide variety of foods: most are delicious and nutritious, but some are high in calories. When choosing foods, remember the USDA’s MyPlate method which emphasizes making half your plate fruits and vegetables, and the rest of your plate with whole grains and lean protein.

6.) Make a farm-to-table meal. Now, use a medley of what you gathered at the farmers market to prepare your meal.

Don’t forget to bring the kids! A trip to the farmers market can be a perfect way to introduce your family to new foods while learning where our food comes from. Get your child excited about what new foods will be there and ask your child what new things they would like to try.

Find a farmers market in your area. And if you live in the Black Hills there is a website just for you!

Find and enjoy a farmers market this summer and fall!

Sources:  Farmers Markets: Bringing the Farm to Table,  Be a Savvy Farmers Market ShopperSDSU Extension, & Iowa State University Extension & Outreach

March Veggie of the Month: Brussels Sprouts

Did you know: Brussels sprouts (a mini cabbage look-alike) get their name from Brussels, Belgium.

In the past, Brussels sprouts got a bad wrap. It’s likely they were served overcooked—which can make them a bit mushy and bitter. Luckily, new cooking methods have given them another chance.

Brussels sprouts are a great source of Vitamins A, B, and C, niacin, iron, and calcium. They contain about 30 calories per ½ cup serving. One pound of Brussels sprouts makes about 6 servings, so load your plate with this leafy goodness!

To maximize flavor, broil, steam, braise, or boil Brussels sprouts for a maximum of 7-10 minutes (less if you like your veggies on the crunchy side). Be sure not to exceed this time. If they have lost their bright green color, they may be overcooked and have lost most of their nutritional value.

When oven roasting, sprinkle with olive oil and salt. If the sprouts are larger than 1½ inches in diameter, cut them in half for cooking.

Tips for buying and preserving

  • Purchase sprouts that are bright green and uniform in size to allow for even cooking.
  • Small, firm, compact sprouts are the best choice.
  • To freeze, trim and remove the coarse outer leaves. Wash thoroughly and blanch 3-5 minutes depending on the size. Cool in a bowl of cold water and ice cubes, also referred to as an ice bath. Then drain and package, leaving no head space (meaning release as much air from the package as possible). Seal and freeze.
  • Make sure your sprouts are dry before you freeze. Getting rid of excess moisture will help keep them from getting mushy when thawed and recooked.

Fun fact: Not sure what blanch means? Check out this great 1 minute video on how to blanch vegetables from the American Heart Association.

Oven-roasted Brussels sprouts

  • 1-2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim Brussels sprouts, then wash and pat dry. Place in a large resealable plastic bag with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Seal tightly and shake to coat. Or, toss in a bowl and coat with an even layer of oil.

Pour onto a baking sheet and place on center oven rack. Roast for 20-40 minutes (depending on your preference) stirring frequently to prevent burning. Serve immediately.

Brussels sprouts salad

  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-pound Brussels sprouts, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Whisk together the first 4 ingredients. Gradually whisk in oil until blended. Place Brussels sprouts, onion, and cranberries in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Stir in pecans just before serving.

Learn more with this video from Penn State Extension about how to buy, store, cook, and enjoy Brussels sprouts.

Resources: USDA Snap-Ed, MSU Extension, University of Illinois Extension, Penn State Extension, American Heart Association

January Veggie of the Month: Spinach

The January Vegetable of the Month is Spinach!

Even though spinach has been grown for decades, it wasn’t until the availability of pre-cut bagged spinach that its popularity was boosted and made it a common grocery store purchase.

The spinach plant can be grown all year-round, but does best in the spring and fall due to cool, hydrated weather conditions. It thrives in sandy soil. California is considered the number 1 producer in the US of this nutritious vegetable. It can be supplied fresh from the garden or processed by canning, freezing, or pureeing for baby food.

Salads are the most common way spinach is used, in a savory mix with onions and mushrooms or sweet with berries and glazed nuts (like pecans). Spinach can be stirred into casseroles, stacked on a sandwich, served as a vegetable, or added to a fruit smoothie. Spinach is often undetected in most smoothies that are made with berries as the deep color of the fruit covers the blended spinach leaves.

Why is spinach good for you?

It is chocked full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and only contains 7 calories per cup. The one cup portion provides 100% of your daily needs of lutein and zeaxanthin—carotenoids that work together to maintain eye health. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, providing 105% of your daily needs and is only beat out by kale when it comes to vitamin K content. Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting, so if you are on a blood thinner prescription, contact your doctor or dietitian before changing the quantity of leafy greens you consume. Other nutrients that are in spinach include folate, manganese, magnesium, copper, B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and iron.

Challenge yourself to use spinach in a new way at mealtime. Your body will thank you!

10 Ways to Enjoy More Spinach  

  1. Stuffed Chicken
    Stuff chicken with spinach, low-fat cheese, and onions. After the chicken is baked, use the spinach combination as a flavorful side dish.
  2. Spinach Smoothie
    Spinach has no flavor, so you can add in the vitamins and minerals without changing the taste. Just a handful of fresh spinach will amp up the nutrition in your favorite smoothie.
  3. Spinach Pesto
    Use spinach instead of basil leaves in your traditional pesto recipe.
  4. Spinach Dip
    Cook spinach [according to package], then mix in Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and sliced cashews. Heat at 350°F for 10 minutes.
  5. Spinach Wrap
    Use spinach as a wrap. Place grilled chicken in a spinach leaf and dip into low-fat ranch dressing.
  6. Popeye-Approved Potatoes
    Mix cooked frozen spinach into mashed potatoes. Top with parmesan cheese for a twist on an old favorite.
  7. Omelettes
    Add spinach, mushrooms, onions, and low-fat cheese to make a nutritious and delicious filling for omelettes and frittatas.
  8. Spinach Fruit Salad
    Use fresh spinach to make a salad then toss in some strawberries, mandarin oranges, or apple slices.
  9. Spinach in Stir-Fry
    Cook spinach, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and broccoli in a little olive oil on high heat for a delicious vegetable medley.
  10. Salad On-the-Go
    Tear spinach leaves and toss into a whole wheat pita with your favorite salad toppings. Add low-fat dressing for a quick salad on the go.

Sources: Harvest of the Month, LiveWell Sioux Falls, SDSU Extension, USDA, Produce for Better Health, and LiveWell Nebraska

Avocados Are Awesome!

There are lots of reasons avocados are so popular these days. Our guacamole certainly wouldn’t be the same, but they are also becoming a regular ingredient in salads, on sandwiches, as toast toppers, and have even been making consistent appearances in smoothies and brownies.

Part of the reason an avocado craze is sweeping the nation has to do with the fruit’s buttery rich flavor and versatile texture, and part of it has to do with the incredible nutrition that can be found beneath that green-ish tinged, soft leather-like skin.
For example:

  • One ounce of avocado contains a pile of vitamins and minerals like C, B6, E, K, and folate, to name just a few, as well as a heaping helping of phytonutrients which help your body prevent disease and infection.
  • Avocados are packed with monosaturated fats – the GOOD fat – the kind of fat that is essential for growing kids and pretty darn good for the rest of us too.
  • Cholesterol free… naturally.
  • Avocados are known as a “nutrient booster” because they help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods eaten at the same time.

And, if that wasn’t enough, here are a few more reasons avocados steal the show in the kitchen and are such a family favorite:

  • The soft, creamy texture makes them a super nutritious first food for babies.
  • Adding a little avocado is an easy way to add color to your plate and nutrition to your diet.
  • They complement all kinds of cooking styles – from Asian and Mexican, to fancy French and All-American backyard feel-good recipes.
  • So good at so many things: avocados can be used as a main ingredient, a side, a spread, or mixed with everything from cooked whole-grains and salads, to breakfast smoothies and desserts.
  • Avocados pair well with sweet, savory, or spicy flavors.
  • Bake them, fry them, grill them or just enjoy them raw.
  • Never out of season, avocados are available all year round!

Avocados are a perfect after-school or on-the-go snack:

  • Arm those kids with a spoon and touch of their favorite seasoning: salt, soy sauce, hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, or a squeeze of lime or lemon.
  • For a heartier snack stuff your avocado with tuna, seafood, turkey, chicken, or cranberry salad, or even cheese, tropical fruit, pesto or salsa.
  • Throw a few chunks on a pretzel stick with some cheese and fruit.
  • Mash and serve with fresh veggies.

They can also be a late-night-craving buster… slightly mashed on toast and topped with a fresh slice of tomato or blended with a handful of berries, 1/2 a banana, and a touch of honey or a splash of agave.

Clearly, this magical fruit needs to be on your grocery list immediately! In the meantime, here are a couple of places to check for fun kid-friendly recipes and even more reasons to confirm the awesomeness of the avocado: California Avocados, Fruit & Veggies More Matters

Sources: California Avocados, Fruit & Veggies More Matters

Gardening with Kids: You Can Grow It!

Getting kids to eat more fruits and veggies can be challenging, but research shows that when kids help grow fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to eat more produce and try different kinds, too. Not only that, but gardening also provides a host of learning experiences that are good for little growing minds and bodies.

Here are just a few of the benefits of gardening with your kids:

Gardening Encourages Healthy Eating

  • kids are more interested in trying the different fruits and veggies that they’ve had a hand in growing
  • they are more open to tasting different types of food
  • reinforcing healthy eating habits at a young age will help them make better food choices as they grow older

Engages the Senses and Promotes Responsibility and Patience

  • digging in the dirt, sorting through seeds, and handling the plants piques their curiosity about the smells and textures of the earth
  • caring for plants by watering, weeding, and fertilizing helps encourage responsibility
  • in our instant-gratification digital age, gardening teaches children that they must practice patience while their plants to grow

Teaches New Skills

  • kids will learn about cause and effect by seeing what happens if the plant doesn’t get enough water or sunlight
  • helps to refine their motor skills when they use spades, rakes, or other tools, place small seeds in soil, and pour water
  • they are introduced to basic scientific concepts of botany, biology, and chemistry
  • they can practice their math skills by measuring growth or counting the number of petals on a flower or beans on a stalk

Provides Time Outdoors

  • gardening is a great way to get kids out of the house, away from their screens, and engage in an activity the whole family can participate in
  • carrying pots, soil, and watering cans, pushing a wheelbarrow, and digging or raking can provide the physical activity kids need
  • research has shown that these types of activities—known as “heavy work”—can even help kids stay calm and focused

Here are some quick tips to get your kids out into the garden:

Start Small and Keep it Simple

  • a small patch of earth, raised bed, or even a few containers are all the space you need to grow edibles
  • choose a few sure-bets such as carrots, zucchini, radishes, or herbs

Different Tasks for Different Ages

  • have older kids do the more complicated tasks like planning and harvesting and keep the little ones to simple things like planting seeds or pulling weeds

Give Them Their Own Tools and Space

  • tools and gloves that fit their hands will make it easier for them to accomplish their tasks
  • giving them a container or space in the garden that’s all their own will give them a sense of accomplishment when they see their plants growing

And if that wasn’t enough to get your family planning for all the delicious fruits and veggies they can grow, here are some more resources to get your green thumbs glowing:

Sources: EatRight.org; FillYourPlate.org; Mommy University

April Fruit of the Month: Strawberries

The April Fruit of the Month is the Strawberry!

The Romans prized wild strawberries for their medicinal properties. Today strawberries, much like the apple, are a treasured part of American history and still important for good health as a high source of Vitamin C and folate. In fact, ounce for ounce, strawberries have more Vitamin C than citrus fruit. According to the American Cancer Society, foods rich in Vitamin C may lower the risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. Phytonutrients found in strawberries can have an anti-inflammatory effect within the body.

A Few Tips to Maximize Your Strawberry Experiences:

  • Select shiny, firm strawberries with a bright red color. The leaves, or caps, should be green and intact. Avoid shriveled, mushy or leaky berries.
  • Don’t wash your strawberries until just prior to consumption. Without an outer skin to protect the fruit, strawberries will spoil much faster if they’re washed and stored for more than a day before use. Make sure they’re thoroughly washed.
  • Strawberries are great by themselves as a snack or dessert. They can also be added to so many other foods to boost the nutritional content such as a yogurt, pancakes, ice cream, angel food cake, or even slice and add to your water to give it an extra bit flavor!
  • Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits to add to salads. The tart/sweet balance compliments meaty flavors like poultry and pecans, savory ones such as bleu cheese, and sharp ones found in vinaigrette dressings.

Summer is the best time to purchase fresh strawberries in South Dakota for price and quality. But don’t forget about frozen strawberries any time of the year! Simply look for frozen strawberries packaged without added sugar.

Sources: Eat Well, Live Well CampaignPick It! Try It! Like It!Fruits & Veggies: More Matters, Harvest of the Month, USDA Report on Food Availability and Consumption, University of Illinois Extension 

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Avocados: Good or Bad?

 The Good, the Bad & the Unsaturated

Here’s the good news: according to the American Heart Association both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (which are both unsaturated) fats may help improve your blood cholesterol when used in place of saturated and trans fats.

Translation: eating foods that are rich in unsaturated fats – such as salmon, walnuts, and avocados – may lower your cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Not only do avocados contain high levels of the good fats our bodies need, but they are also a great source of lutein, which has been linked to improved brain health in older adults and improved cognitive function in young children. In fact, avocados took center stage in a recent study and the results showed clear benefits to the “brain health” of the older adults who ate an avocado a day. Now, that’s something to think about!

Of course, avocados aren’t a stand-alone miracle food but they do pack a nutritional punch.
For instance:

  • Avocados contain more than 20 vitamins and minerals per serving.
  • They are chock-full of fiber, folate, and antioxidants.
  • A single serving (about 1/5 of a medium avocado) contains only 50 calories.
  • Contains no cholesterol.

The bottom line is that avocados are a powerful source of vitamins and minerals and contain high levels of unsaturated fats. And, if you are trying to lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke, or just want to improve your diet by adding more fruits and vegetables… including foods like avocados in your meal plan might not be a bad place to start.

Sources: American Heart Association, Fruits & Veggies More Matters, CDC

Finding Balance: Calories & Physical Activity

By balancing the calories you eat in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables with daily physical activity, you can maintain a healthy weight.

front of healthy weight palm card


Choose a variety of healthy foods, including low in fat and sugar, watch portion size and get at least 30-60 minutes of physical activity daily.

back of healthy weight palm card


Download images here.

Fruits & Veggies – More Matters!

The USDA recommends eating 5 – 9 servings of fruits and veggies per day. That might sound like a lot, but it’s easy if you follow MyPlate’s tips:

  • Eat the rainbow! Make sure at least half of your plate is full of fruits and veggies. 
  • Choose fruits and veggies as quick snacks. 
  • Try something new. You can find fresh choices at a farm stand or farmers market. 
  • Vary your veggies. Fresh or frozen? Cooked or raw? Red, orange, or green? Picking different options will keep meals interesting! 
  • You can cook frozen or fresh vegetables in the microwave for a quick side dish. 
  • Opt for whole fruits more than fruit juice. Fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and pureed all count! 
  • Add fruit to your cereal or yogurt at breakfast.

Why are fruits and veggies important to eat?

  • Low in calories—naturally!
  • May reduce disease risk, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals that help you feel healthy and energized.

Click on each nutrient to see a list of fruits & veggies that are “high” and “good” sources. Remember—beans and peas count as a vegetable, too!

  • Calcium: Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It is also needed for normal functioning of muscles, nerves, and some glands.
  • Fiber: Diets rich in dietary fiber have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects, including decreased risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Folate: Healthful diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect.
  • Iron: Needed for healthy blood and normal functioning of all cells.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is necessary for healthy bones and is involved with more than 300 enzymes in your body! Low levels may result in muscle cramps and high blood pressure.
  • Potassium: Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
  • Vitamin A: Keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps protect against infections.
  • Vitamin C: Helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy.

What fruits and veggies are in season right now?

Choosing fruits and vegetables in season is a great way to stretch your food dollars. Learn more about seasonal fruits and vegetables:

Unsure how to cut up or use that fruit and vegetable you just bought?

Go to CookSmarts and watch videos that show you how to cut up and prepare most fruits and vegetables!

And remember 2 things…

1.) Fill half your plate with fruits & veggies at every meal and be sure to include healthy snacks when you get the munchies. For a fun way to teach kids about healthy snacks—get the FREE MunchCode App!

2.) All forms—fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice—count toward your daily intake.

Sources:  FNV, SD Harvest of the Month, CookSmarts, and South Dakota Department of Health Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS)

Harvest of the Month

Harvest of the Month is a FREE and versatile teaching program that can be used by parents, educators, student mentors, childcare providers and anyone interested in helping kids get excited about eating more fruits and vegetables!

Each fruit and vegetable featured on this site comes with a set of educational materials to make learning and sharing tasty and fun. Search by food or season for quick and easy access to the materials you are looking for.

Each presentation includes:

  • Fruit or vegetable history
  • Peak seasons
  • Vitamins & minerals
  • How to find it at the store

You’ll also get:

  • Presenter outline
  • PowerPoint for students
  • Presenter talking points that follow the PowerPoint for students
  • Stickers of the featured fruit
  • Student handout with recipes that can be taken home

These materials, combined with produce sampling in the classroom, make fruit and veggies interesting and fun. Kids get to play with new tastes and different textures, bring home ideas to use in the kitchen, and have a reason to ask for more fruit and vegetables.

The website features additional materials to help launch Harvest of the Month and healthy eating education programs, like a Program Overview, Strategies to Involve Parents, and other implementation ideas.

Lesson plans are available for teachers to use in individual classrooms, health classes, PE classes, school assemblies and after school programs, and are adaptable to almost any educational setting.

New fruit and veggies are being added all the time! Make learning easy… and tasting and eating more fruit and vegetables fun!


Munch Code! App

A Free App Designed for iPhone & iPad.

The Munch Code! Game is a fun way for kids, parents, and teachers to practice healthier between meal snacking. Based on a simple color code, similar to traffic lights, the player discovers which foods and drinks are “green” (eat a bunch) which ones are “yellow” (have just a little) and which are “red” (not so much).

The app comes in handy wherever and whenever people are making decisions about what to eat and drink “on the fly,” — especially grabbing snacks at concessions and convenience stores.

There are three levels to the game. The first is an array of food choices spread out in the foreground in front of a concession. The player’s job is to sort all the items onto the right colored shelves. It’s not as easy as it looks! But with a few prompts from the sound track and some outright graphic hints if needed, the player learns all the Much Code basics that will help them navigate the next two levels with relative ease.

The second level lets the player apply the basic principles learned in the first level by presenting a days worth of snacks laid out in a basket. The selection initially presented has some problems. There are too many selections from some Munch Code color groups, and not enough from some others. The player’s challenge is to balance the items in the basket so that the day’s array of snack items follows the Munch Code guidelines.

The final level of the game is a straightforward sort of a single day’s snack items into the proper colored food groups. This exercise reinforces the suggested proportions for the player and reveals the simple “math formula” behind it all.

The game is primarily intended for use by parents and teachers as an aid to teaching young children the recommended way to think about eating a healthy balanced diet on those busy days when the child has to make many, if not most of the food choices themselves.

Now you may think that just because you’re a parent or a teacher, you already know all the information the Munch Code game has to offer. Well… you might be in for a few surprises! Most of the adults we know still get a few things mixed up every time they play. So, come on, check it out! It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s funny. And the way!

Download today!

Why Fruits and Vegetables Matter for Men

Compared to people who eat only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts — as part of a healthful diet — are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases. Depending on age and level of physical activity, men should eat between 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit and 21/2 to 4 cups of vegetables every day. Eating more fruits and vegetables is a smart thing you can do for your health.

Fill up, not out
As part of a healthy diet, eating fruits and vegetables instead of high-fat foods may make it easier to control your weight. You may also feel full on fewer calories. That’s because most are also lower in calories and higher in fiber than other foods. To get a healthy variety, think color. Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives your body a wide range of valuable nutrients, like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Some examples include green spinach, orange sweet potatoes, black beans, yellow corn, purple plums, red watermelon, or white onions. For more variety, try new fruits and vegetables regularly.

Download the PDF and read on to find out how eating fruits and vegetables is a smart thing you can do for your health.

Choose Smart, Choose Healthy

It’s your life. You’re in control. When you choose to eat right and stay physically active, you choose a healthy lifestyle. Including fruits and vegetables with every meal is a smart place to start, because they’re great for your body.

Most fruits and vegetables are fiber-rich, nutrient-dense foods — meaning they’re packed with valuable nutrients and are low in calories and fat. Compared to people who eat few fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts — as part of a healthful diet — are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases including stroke, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and perhaps heart disease and high blood pressure.

Download the PDF and read on to find out how eating fruits and vegetables is a smart thing you can do for your health.

Health Benefits and Culinary Uses of Mushrooms

Healthy, versatile mushrooms are an excellent addition to your plate. Mushrooms impart a fifth taste sense called umami, which is savory. Hearty meat-like mushrooms are an economical and nutritious way to enhance any meal.

Mushrooms are low in calories (one cup of raw sliced mushrooms has about 20 calories) and high in vitamins and minerals. A source of potassium, mushrooms can provide selenium and copper, depending on the variety. They have three B-complex vitamins: riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, which help release energy from the fat, protein and carbohydrates in food.

Mushrooms also can be excellent sources of vitamin D if they have been exposed to ultraviolet light right before or after harvesting. Mushrooms provide plenty of opportunity in the kitchen. This is one vegetable you’re better off cooking as it releases more of the nutrients. Try grilling, stir-frying and sautéing to limit fat.

Choose mushrooms with a firm texture, even color and tightly closed caps. They can be refrigerated in a paper bag for up to one week, but they’re best used within a few days. Before preparing them, brush mushrooms off with your finger then rinse and pat dry with a paper towel (do not soak them). Some mushrooms, like shiitakes, should have their stems trimmed before cooking.

There are more than 2,000 varieties of edible mushrooms in all shapes, sizes and textures, but never eat mushrooms in the wild that you don’t know are safe — some are poisonous.

Agaricus (White or Button)
White button are the most common and least expensive mushrooms to appear on grocery store shelves. They have a mild taste and can be used in just about anything from salads to sauces. Button mushroom flavor intensifies when cooked, making them ideal for sautéing and grilling.

One of the most commonly harvested mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest, chanterelles are funnel- or trumpet-shaped mushrooms with a fruity, apricot-like aroma and mild, peppery taste. Most are yellow or orange. Chanterelles pair well with herbs like chives and tarragon, are delicious sautéed or roasted and are a good substitute for pricier morel mushrooms.

Crimini (Italian Brown)
Crimini look similar to the white button, but are a little darker in color and have an earthier, stronger taste. They’re actually a young portabella and are sometimes called “baby bellas.” Criminis are good eaten raw, roasted or sautéed. Pair with garlic, thyme or balsamic vinegar for the best flavor.

Enoki or Enokitak
Enoki mushrooms are often used in Asian cuisine (particularly soups). They are long stemmed, white and have a delicate flavor and a slight crunch. Trim off the root end of the cluster and separate the mushrooms before serving. Enokis add crunch to salads and sandwiches, and mild flavor to soups and stir-fries.

Its honeycomb-like shape and intense, deep woods flavor add to the morel mystique. Varying in color from light yellow to dark brown, fresh morels are available (and hunted) in spring and summer. Accessible year-round, dried morels are full of flavor and much less expensive than the fresh variety. Cook before eating by sautéing, stuffing or simmering morels to create flavorful sauces.

Oyster mushrooms are smooth, trumpet-shaped and have a light flavor. Though the color fades when cooked, oyster mushrooms can be yellow, pink or blue. Oyster mushrooms pair well with fish, seafood, poultry and red meat and are delicious simply sautéed or roasted whole.

Porcini mushrooms are reddish brown in appearance. Porcinis are some of the most sought-after wild mushrooms for their distinct earthy, nutty flavor. Less expensive dried porcini can be reconstituted and used to add robust flavor to sauces, soups, stews and stuffing. Try them in a classic Italian risotto.

A grown-up crimini, portabellas are large, firm and have a meaty taste and texture. With its steak-like texture, grilled portabellas make a satisfying vegan “burger.” Sauté, broil or roast portabellas and enjoy in fajitas, as a pizza topping or chopped into a hearty ragout. To prevent discoloration, remove the black gills before sautéing.

Shiitake mushrooms were originally cultivated in China and Japan. Like portabellas, shiitakes have a meaty texture. Cooking brings out their earthy, smoky flavor. With the tough stem removed, try shiitakes sautéed or add to stir-fries, soups or pasta dishes. For more intense flavor, try dried shiitakes in your recipes.

Source: EatingRight.org; Mushrooms: Taste of the Earth

Fun Fruit Kabobs

Try these kabobs for a quick and easy snack!

Prep time: 15 minutes

What you need:

  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • 1/3 c. red seedless grapes
  • 1/3 c. green seedless grapes
  • 2/3 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup nonfat yogurt
  • ¼ c. dried coconut, shredded

Equipment and supplies:

  • knife (you’ll need help from your adult assistant)
  • 2 wooden skewer sticks
  • large plate

What to do:

  1. 1. Prepare the fruit by washing the grapes, washing the apples and cutting them into small squares, peeling the bananas and cutting them into chunks, and cutting the pineapple into chunks, if it’s fresh. Put the fruit onto a large plate.
  2. 2. Spread coconut onto another large plate.
  3. 3. Slide pieces of fruit onto the skewer and design your own kabob by putting as much or as little of whatever fruit you want! Do this until the stick is almost covered from end to end.
  4. 4. Hold your kabob at the ends and roll it in the yogurt, so the fruit gets covered. Then roll it in the coconut.
  5. 5. Repeat these steps with another skewer.

How much does this recipe make?

  • 4 servings.
  • Serving size: 1 kabob

Nutritional analysis (per serving):

  • 141 calories
  • 3 g fat
  • 28 g carbohydrate
  • 3 g fat
  • 1 mg cholesterol
  • 2 g saturated fat
  • 52 mg sodium
  • 103 mg calcium
  • 0.5 mg iron
  • 3 g fiber
  • Note: Nutritional analysis may vary depending on ingredient brands used.

Variations and suggestions:

  • Roll your kabobs in something besides coconut. Try granola, nuts, or raisins, or use your imagination.

Reviewed by: Allison Brinkley, RD, LD/N

Source: KidsHealth; Fun Fruit Kabobs