Scrub Your Grub!

By Laura Slatalla, Recent ASU Nutrition Student

Step one, before cutting into vegetables or taking a bite of fruit, is to wash all produce. Produce needs to be washed to get rid of any dirt or bacteria picked up along the way. It’s passed through employee’s hands and is touched by several shoppers in the grocery store. Stockers at the store don’t need a food handlers card to stock fruits and veggies at the grocery store, so common precautions like washing their hands after coughing may not have been followed, and there is certainly no way to guarantee a fellow shopper didn’t sneeze on your apples.

According to the FDA, rinsing with cool water is enough, and actually recommends against using soaps or detergents. For tougher fruits and vegetables, like melon or squash, a clean produce brush should be used to scrub the skin. I like to use a brush on most produce with a natural cleanser to remove the waxy coating. Even though you may not be eating the peel, the bacteria will be transferred to the inside of the produce once it is cut into, so it still has to be washed.

Fruits and vegetables are too often overlooked when it comes to foodborne illness, which is a serious threat. When we think of food poisoning, meat usually comes to mind, but many cases are actually caused by improperly washed fruits and vegetables. We take precautions with meats and dairy products, so do the same with produce. Prepare it safely to keep your family healthy.

My favorite cleanser recipe is pretty simple. You need a spray bottle. Prepare it by squeezing a tablespoon of lemon juice into the bottle. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Add a cup of water. Mix it up well and you’re ready to scrub that grub!

For more informative blog post check out the Fill Your Plate Blog.



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5 Tips to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits

by Lori Meszaros, Recent ASU Nutrition Communication student


If you walked into a school lunchroom and saw children lining up for the salad bar, you’d probably wonder, “What are they putting in that salad bar to make those kids want to eat salad for lunch?”

Salad bars are starting to show up in school cafeterias, with no special ingredients to entice kids to eat salad for lunch, other than the school garden planted outside.

School gardens are sprouting up across the United States, Europe and Australia; From the Edible School Yard Project to Farm to School programs like Arizona Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom, gardening is quickly becoming the mainstream focus on teaching our children about healthy food choices.

School Gardening


Research supports, that if you teach children about gardening you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll try new fruits and vegetables. For instance, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that middle school children who were exposed to gardening alongside a nutrition education course more than doubled the amount of fruits and vegetables they would try in a taste test, compared to those children who weren’t exposed to the gardening program. The study further demonstrated how gardening increases a child’s curiosity about where food comes from, encouraging healthier eating habits.

You’re probably thinking, that’s great news! School gardens may help my picky eater eat fruits and vegetables for lunch, but my school doesn’t have a gardening program. What can I do?

There is plenty you can do at home with your children to encourage healthy eating habits. Here are 5 tips to get you started.


Tips to encourage healthy eating habits at home

 Tip #1- Start small, plant an herb garden.

You don’t need a big backyard to start a garden, you don’t even need a backyard.  All you need is some soil, sun, water and a little patience. Herbs are a great way to start gardening with your child, and can be grown in your kitchen. Herbs require very little work, other than trimming once in a while, to add fresh flavor to your next dish.

Parsley, oregano and basil grow incredibly well in Arizona’s dry climate, and are used in so many dishes. Next time you get the urge to make home-made pizza, ask your child to cut some fresh oregano or basil, grown from your very own kitchen garden. You and your little chef will be amazed at the flavor fresh herbs add to your pizza. You may even find yourself making pizza more often (and try not to act surprised when they sample a leaf or two before bringing it to you).

Tip #2- Grow vegetables from kitchen scraps.

Why throw out scraps when you can regrow them. Ever find a potato or onion starting to sprout before you get a chance to use it?

Next time, instead of just throwing it away, why not ask your child if they think they can grow it into something to eat? They may look at you funny, but curiosity will win them over and before you know it, you’ll have your very own science lab in your kitchen.

There are lots of fruits and vegetables you use every day that can be regrown from the unused portion you usually throw away, and most can be grown in just a small amount of water.

Potatoes, celery and onions are just a few of the kitchen scraps you can easily grow with your child. Check out my list of 10 foods you can easily regrow from kitchen scraps.

Tip #3- Harvest your own seeds.

Play with your child’s curiosity about how things grow. Cut into a tomato and remove a few seeds from the center. Place the seeds on a wet paper towel inside a clear plastic cup, place the cup near a sunny window, but not in direct sunlight, and watch them sprout. Within a few days your child will see the seed start to break open, and a new little sprout pop out. Once the sprout is a few inches tall, gently remove the sprout and plant in a sunny location. You’ll have fresh tomatoes within the month and your picky eater trying tomatoes.

Tip #4- Enjoy a family outing to your local farmer’s market.

Farmer’s markets are a great place to teach your kids about where food comes from and Arizona is host to so many different markets. Farmers are extremely proud of what they grow, and kids are naturally curious. Who better to teach your kids about the food they eat then the person who grows it?

When you take your child to a farmer’s market, they get a chance to meet the farmers and learn about how their food was grown; not to mention tasting some of the samples they may normally pass on at home. Kids love samples, and farmer’s markets are a great place to try something new.

By making a family outing to your local farmer’s market a regular thing, instead of your usual trip to the local fast food joint, you can quickly help associate good, healthy food with happy memories of going to the farmer’s market.

Tip #5- Make food fun.

The internet has made finding fun ways to present food easier than ever. Think Pinterest. From “The Hungry Caterpillar” fruit sticks to “Butterfly” sandwiches, you can find tons of creative ways to present new foods that might just be the trick to get those picky little eaters to try something new.

Another trick, stick it on a stick.

One of the easiest things I did to get my kids to try new foods was, present it to them on a stick. Yep, it was that easy. You’d be amazed at what kids will try when they don’t have to use a knife and fork. I’ve even gone so far as making an entire meal that had to be eaten with toothpicks.

Research supports, kids who are exposed to healthy foods are more likely to make healthy choices as an adult, and isn’t that what we want for our kids?

Remember that October is National Farm to School Month and is the perfect time to visit one of Arizona’s many farmer’s markets, encouraging healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.

What are some things you’ve tried to get your kids eating healthier? We’d love to hear your creative ideas to get your kids trying new, healthy foods. Go to our Fill Your Plate Facebook and post a comment.



Castro, DC., Samuels, M., & Harman, AE. Growing healthy kids: A community garden-based obesity prevention program. Am J Prev Med, 2013; 44(3):193-199.

McAlesse JD, Rankin LL. Garden-based nutrition education affects fruit and vegetable consumption in sixth-grade adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc, 2007; 107(4):662-665.

Photos: Pixabay, Creative Commons



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Tips to Keep You on Track with Healthy Eating

 By Lori Meszaros, Former ASU Nutrition Communications student

We’ve all been there, wanting to cook a healthy meal but home too late to even think about it. Who wants to spend hours in the kitchen preparing, cooking and then cleaning up after a long day? We often turn to unhealthy takeout or prepared meals at the local grocery store. These meals are loaded with extra calories, fat, and salt which makes it hard to stay on track and stick to eating healthy. However, if you follow these simple tips, you too can cook a healthy meal in less time than it takes to steam rice or boil pasta.

If you’re anything like me, meal planning isn’t something you like to do. I’m more of a cook- on-a-whim kind of person, making whatever I’m in the mood for that day. This can pose a bit of a problem sometimes, but a little bit of planning on the weekend can help keep you on track with healthy eating.

Pre-cut your veggies

After your weekend trip to your local farmer’s market or grocery store, bring home your bountiful veggie harvest, rinse and pre-cut the veggies to store for use through the week. Buying veggies and spending a little time getting them ready on the weekend will not only save you time in the kitchen during the week but also save you money. Pre-cut veggies can be expensive and you’re never sure how old they really are. Home-cut veggies can be stored in plastic zip bags, plastic or glass container and kept fresh through the week. Just place a dry paper towel in the bottom of the container to trap any extra moisture or gently pat dry if storing in a zip bag.

The USDA recommends eating at least 3 servings of vegetables a day as part of an overall healthy diet, and that eating more vegetables may also help reduce the amount of calories you eat in a meal. Vegetables are a good source of fiber, low in fat and calories, and an important source of many vitamins and minerals.

Having pre-cut veggies on hand makes it easy to throw some into a quick stir-fry, have as a quick healthy snack or toss with some olive oil to roast. Roasting vegetables brings out the sweetness in them by what is called dextrinization- browning of the starch that gives foods a sweet taste. Try tossing veggies with a little olive oil, some seasoning then roast on a lined baking sheet at 400F for about 10-15 minutes or until tender. Roasted veggies make a great addition to a salad or as a side dish.

Batch cook rice, quinoa or pasta

Cooking rice, quinoa or pasta can be time-consuming and after a long day who has wants to spend hours in the kitchen cooking? Batch cooking over the weekend will have you cooking up healthy 15-minute meals to impress your family just like those celebrity chefs Racheal Ray and Jamie Oliver.

Cook rice, quinoa or pasta over the weekend and store in containers for up to one week. If you find yourself not using all of the food you batch cooked, you can store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. Just defrost in the refrigerator the day before you plan to use them again.

  • Rice and quinoa can be stored in a glass container right after cooking.
  • Toss pasta with a little olive oil before storing in a container to prevent from sticking.

Rice and quinoa can be tossed into a simple stir-fry with some chopped veggies and pasta can be reheated in a little boiling water in only 1-2 minutes.

The USDA recommends eating 1 ½-2 cups of grains per day as part of a healthy diet. Eating whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta or quinoa provides your body with many beneficial nutrients that are stripped away from refined wheat products. Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber, several B vitamins and minerals. B vitamins are an essential for energy, a healthy nervous system and play a role in metabolizing your food by helping your body release the energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates in the foods you eat.

Precook Legumes

Legumes, like beans and chickpeas can take hours to cook. Presoaking the legume can help cut cooking time in half, and batch cooking on the weekend can eliminate the need to even turn on the stove.

Over the weekend, prepare the beans first by soaking overnight. The next day, begin cooking the beans you plan to use for the week. If you plan right, you can have a few things cooking at the same time. Just make sure to cool the legumes to room temperature before you store them, otherwise they may turn bad in a few days. If cooled properly and stored in an air-tight container, legumes will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer.

Legumes are a unique food because they can be counted as both a protein and a vegetable in your diet. Legumes are packed with nutrients and have many benefits to your health such as reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Adding legumes to your diet is a great way to get in plant-based proteins that are loaded with fiber.

Frozen veggies

Freezing vegetables is one way to be sure to always have produce on hand when you’re short on time and are the next best thing to fresh. They’re usually picked at the peak and then quickly flash frozen, preserving most of the nutrients. Just like store-bought pre-cut veggies, frozen veggies can be a bit more expensive, so why not put a little time aside on a weekend to make your own.

Next time you’re buying veggies at the farmer’s market, buy a little extra of whatever is in season, and instead of storing the pre-cut veggies in the refrigerator, blanch some (that is dropping veggies into boiling water for 30 seconds- 1 minute). After blanching the veggies, remove them from boiling water and drop them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry, then spread on a baking sheet to freeze for at least 2 hours before storing in a plastic bag.

Arizona grows some of the best sweet corn in the country and you can find it in season at your local farmer’s market or grocery stores from June to October. But what about the rest of the year? Stocking up on AZ finest sweet corn when it’s in season and freezing it for those recipes you can’t live without in the winter is the best way to enjoy those tasty kernels year round.  Just cut kernels off the cob raw, or either after grilling on the BBQ or blanching, then spread them on a lined baking sheet in the freezer for at least 2 hours before storing in a plastic bag.

Frozen corn can be added to many dishes; I’ve even added one of my favorites below or you can check out Fill Your Plate for more yummy Arizona sweet corn recipes.

Sweet corn is another one of those amazing foods that can be considered a vegetable, a grain and a fruit. Usually, corn is eaten as a vegetable and has many of the health benefits of vegetables. Sweet corn is a rich source of B vitamins, vitamin C, phosphorus, manganese, folate and dietary fiber. One serving of sweet corn contains 3 grams of your daily fiber needs.

Eating healthy is much easier when you have a well-stocked refrigerator. By taking an hour or two over the weekend to prepare, you too can be cooking healthy meals in as little as 15 minutes. Here’s one of my personal favorite go to recipes that take less than 15 minutes to prepare.

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad



1 cup frozen corn (fresh is always better, but who has the time tonight!)

1 small red onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red sweet pepper, diced

1 zucchini, chopped (optional)

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup cooked quinoa (you can use rice if you prefer)

1 lime, juiced

Handful of cilantro, chopped

How to prepare

  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and dry sauté (no oil) the corn with chili powder, cumin and coriander until it begins to brown, tossing to prevent sticking, about 2-4 mins.
  • Add in the onion, garlic, and red pepper and sauté another 1-2 mins.
  • Add the black beans and toss to heat. (Note- do not cook black beans, just toss them in the mixture and turn off heat.)
  • Remove from heat and add the cooked quinoa (or rice), lime juice and coriander and mix until all ingredients are combined.
  • Garnish with fresh avocado, tomato, cilantro and a lime wedge.

This can be served warm or cold. I served mine with organic blue corn chips and avocado. This salad also makes a great filling for other dishes you can find on my recipe blog, like my Taco Omelet or Black Bean Quinoa Stuffed Portabella’s.


Remember to go to Fill Your Plate for recipes from Arizona Farmers and Ranchers.




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Acne is Not Just About the Diet

By Bailey Roden, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

You know that cliché movie where the teenage girl has a date coming up and a pimple appears right in the middle of her forehead. I fully relate to this and I know many of you can too. Of course, it’s not a problem any of us want to have but it happens! I remember my first experience with this problem like it was yesterday. I had the most important competition of my life. I thought that no one would be able to take me seriously with a ginormous swollen red dot on my face. The worst part of it all is that there was nothing I could do about it other than a little foundation. It still felt like a neon sign flashing red on my forehead.

So, I went on about my day, did my competition while still being completely self-conscious. To make matters even worse I was in so much pain due to this bump on my face. I didn’t think the day could get any worse. While I was in this situation I began to think of all the ways this can be prevented. I wash my face every day and I moisturize, but apparently that’s not enough.

Full of curiosity, I began to do some research because I needed to know how to avoid this situation. During my research I found out that teenagers are not the only ones suffering from acne, adults are too. Research has also shown that your diet plays a role in your face breakouts. A lot of Americans consume a “Western Diet.” This diet is loaded with red meat, saturated fats, carbohydrates and too much sugar. A key component missing from this diet is plant-based fibers. The western diet has forgotten the rule of moderation. As the consumer of this diet, it is our responsibility to incorporate moderation. There are foods we could add to this diet to help fight acne! For example, foods that are rich in antioxidants! You can also keep that beef on your plate, because foods that are rich in zinc help fight acne as well. So, next time you throw that mouthwatering steak on the grill, have a nice side salad to go with it! I would even throw some carrots on that plate for a brighter color!

The list includes more than just your diet when it comes to contributing factors of acne. Your genetics and hormones are also the enemy. Genetics may come as a shock to most people but in this day in age it’s pretty common. This is one of the most unpredictable factors. Similar to other diseases or issues dealing with genetics, it’s difficult to treat because the counter reaction is unknown. The other excuse you’ve heard for acne is hormones. Hormones are the sneak-attack acne. Hormones are happening internally and acne is an external blemish that appears due to all the crazed hormone activity that’s going on during puberty.  Of course, there is one more pesky acne factor that we are all too familiar with; stress. Stress-related pimples can also be linked back to hormones. When you’re stressed, an oil-releasing hormone increases the amount of oil released therefore causing a clogged pore and a surprise visit from our unpopular friend, acne.

It seems like the world of acne is against us, that’s because it totally is. But we worked out today, so we’re ready to fight back! In the war against acne, remember to have a diet that includes a variety of red meat and plant-based fibers. If genetics is your issue, doctors specializing in dermatology can help you find a treatment that’s right for you, the same thing goes for hormones! As for stress, take a deep breath and relax.

For recipes to help you add variety to your plate check out Fill Your Plate, We have everything from main dishes, side dishes, and desserts!

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To Beef or Not To Beef: Nutrition Facts about a Misunderstood Food

By Amanda Van Dall, ASU Nutrition Student

It’s about progress, not perfection. We are all on divergent paths with different goals. Yet we share similar situations, such as nourishing ourselves with a proper breakfast for the long day’s journey. Which should be simple. However, even basic needs can be laden with multiple difficulties. While the social media revolution has imbued us with a wealth of information, it also demands a hefty investment of our time. We often spend our breakfast paying more attention to the latest article on nutrition rather than to our food, which waits patiently as it cools slowly.

Nutrition education is a laudable topic. But an information overload can have deleterious side effects, especially when conflicting information is presented. The morning ritual of breakfast itself is the ideal metaphor for our obsession with Nutrition, with a capital N. This preoccupation should be replaced with the reality about food. In the past, orange juice was considered a healthy start to a wonderful day. Now we know the detrimental effects of excess sugars. Eggs were dietary grenades, waiting to kill you with cholesterol. Currently, they have renewed approval from peer-reviewed health journals and prosaic kitchen tables. Even opinions on breads and grains can be as polar as any political debate. Yet the center of the dietary debate revolves around our favorite food: beef. Few foods have been acclaimed and vilified as often as meat. Who would have thought there would be so much argument over a little sausage?

For this article, we shall focus on the nutritional constituents of beef. The goal here is to reveal beef as less of a mercurial entity and more of the dietary superstar that it is.

  • Vitamins and Minerals:
  • B3 (niacin) – Contrary to widespread belief, beef may help prevent heart disease. This is due to the abundance of niacin in each serving. This valuable B vitamin has many uses throughout the body, but one of its main functions is the maintenance of coronary health.
  • B12 (cobalamin) – This B vitamin, which is essential in dozens of enzymatic reactions ranging from neuronal function to blood production, is found in only one dietary source: meat, especially red meat. In addition, B12 is the most potent methylating B vitamin.
  • Iron – The iron which is redolent in red meat is in the heme form, which is assimilated more easily and readily by the body.
  • Phosphorus – The best source of this mineral, which is essential for growth and development, is from food.
  • Selenium – The importance of this potent micromineral is not simply due to its minuscule size. Although supplementation of selenium is of paramount importance, the supplement itself may prevent proper assimilation. When selenium is paired in a pill which contains larger macrominerals such as calcium and magnesium, absorption is often blocked due to size preference. Which is why maintaining a steady supply of selenium via food sources is crucial.
  • Zinc – This mineral maintains health as well as facilitates growth. Due to soil nutrient depletion caused by unsustainable farming, the true nutrient content of fruits and vegetables has become an estimate instead of a statement. Zinc deficiency has a long list of deleterious side effects, which is why it may be prudent to add portions of zinc-reach beef into one’s dietary regime.


  • Essential amino acids (all 8), especially:
  • Creatine – An energy source for working muscles.
  • Taurine – An essential amino acid for cardiac muscle health.
  • Glutathione – A master detoxifier which is essential for healthy living.
  • Protein in general, which provides the building blocks for everyone from athletes recovering from surgery to older adults who aim to allay sarcopenia.


3) Good fats and good cholesterol:

  • Major fatty acids, including oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid – Which the body stores as energy reserves for efficient functioning.
  • CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) – An energy source which goes to where it is needed while avoiding traditional areas of fat accumulation, which has given it a dubious reputation as a fat loss aid.
  • Although further research is warranted, current research is stating that dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol. Since cholesterol is vital to several biological functions, including arterial maintenance, consuming grass-fed beef products will help provide the body with the materials it requires.


The list of health benefits could continue for miles, but we’ll end here while the outlook is sunny. The are several paths on the road to proper health. During our journey, we each must determine which diet works for us to fuel our quest to become our best. Utilize all available resources and technology to decide which foods work for you. But also use information responsibly. Any food, including beef, should be properly researched, instead of automatically discarded due to fallacious public opinions. It is an option, not an answer. Use food wisely, and you shall become wise.


About Amanda:  Amanda is a past allopathic medical student who is vacillating between completing a naturopathic medical degree or becoming a registered dietitian. She’s been graced with the good fortune of being formed amongst the beautiful rural communities between Colorado and Wyoming, then being polished amidst the sagacious states of Massachusetts and New York. Her halcyon country days and elucidating urban experiences have given her a balanced and unique perspective on topics, including the unwarranted vilification of certain supplements and foods (especially beef).


In the past, she’s been drifting between vocations such as health coach, personal trainer, supplement seller, part-time cowgirl, and aberrant traveler (including a brief stint with the Tamil Nadu, India branch of the International Alliance for the Prevention of AIDS). Currently, she’s preparing for a permanent move to Berlin.

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