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    Whole grains are an essential part of a healthy and well-balanced diet. They provide fiber and vital nutrients our bodies need, such as B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals like iron and zinc.

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    Avoiding illness has been on our minds lately, especially over the last 18 months. A healthy immune system helps protect us from becoming ill, but the question is: Can we strengthen our own immune system? The short answer is yes. However, it’s important to note that no single food or healthy lifestyle behavior can prevent illness. Rather you can only support your immune system by engaging in a variety of healthy lifestyle behaviors.

    How our immune system works

  3. Published

    Just about every year I've been working, Sandy, one of our Master Gardeners, brings in squash blossoms around the office. He has offered them to me in the past, but I've never cooked with them before and never took him up the offer. This year, I was ready to explore how to clean, prepare, and cook with these edible flowers from Sandy's cushaw squash plant.

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    Who has made the "mistake" of planting too many zucchini or summer squash plants, and then scrambled to find doorsteps to drop off extras? Take them please! There are too many! Or is it just time to eat a whole LOT of summer squash in the next month?

    Nutritionally, 1 cup of chopped zucchini contains around 20 calories, 4g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, and is a source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A and potassium. Like other veggies, zucchini are not a significant source of fat, protein, or sodium.

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    Canning

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    I got to spend some time a few weeks ago picking blueberries! Put on my hat and UV shirt, brought a bottle of water, and got to pickin'. Thanks goodness for taller blueberry bushes so I could take a break from crouching down. Now the question is: what to do with all the fresh blueberries?

    Nutritionally, a 1/2-cup of blueberries contains around 40 calories, 10g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, and is a good source of vitamin C, folate, and vitamin K. Blueberries do not have significant amounts of fat, sodium, or protein.  

  7. Published

    Summer is officially here! If you haven’t already gotten your grill out, you should consider doing so.

    Grilling is a great way to keep the kitchen cool and enjoy many of your favorite summer foods. Whether you are grilling meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables, it is important to food safety at the forefront. Perhaps you haven’t thought much about food safety lately. However, during our warm summer months, there is an increase in the number of foodborne-related illnesses.

  8. Published

    There is nothing in this world like eating truly ripe fruit, picked at the peak of nutritional freshness. You know when you bite into a truly ripe, locally grown strawberry that you are eating something special.  Oh my, I can almost taste one now! There is no comparison between a fully ripe local berry and the big hollow tasteless orbs found in our supermarkets year-round. Where can you find these luscious gems of early summer?

  9. Published

    School is out for the year and kids everywhere are excited to start their summers! Whatever the kids are doing, let them practice making meals and snacks for themselves this summer. This gives them autonomy with their food choices, lets them develop self-sufficiency, and may encourage them to explore new foods.

  10. Published

    Every year, Illinoisans all over the state take advantage of farmers markets for local, fresh, in-season produce. Illinois is ranked #3 in the nation for having the highest number of farmers' markets. Farmers markets are a great place to enjoy the outdoors while shopping for good deals on local fruit, vegetables, and other specialty items like fresh bread, local meats and cheese, baked goods, and jam. It's also a great way to spend active leisure time with family and friends, as there is often entertainment and sometimes kid-friendly activities.

  11. Published

    If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed when trying to maintain a healthy diet, you are not alone. We all know a healthy diet is vital to our overall health, especially if you are attempting to slim down or manage a chronic health condition.

  12. Published

    Radishes come in quite the variety: spicy to mild, small to long, round to straight, red to white to multicolored. This photo of a watermelon radish from University of California Cooperative Extension is a fun one.

    Nutrition

    A half cup of sliced raw radishes contains around 10 calories, 2g carbohydrates, and 1g fiber. While radishes do not contain much protein, fat, or sodium, they do have vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, potassium, and calcium.

  13. Published

    There’s something about going to the farmers market that just feels right. Maybe it’s the cool breeze and peek of sunshine in the morning, the calm gathering of people with their adorable babies and furry dogs, or the colorful array of foods that stand in front of the hard-working farmers. Supporting local agriculture and entrepreneurs is supporting the community you live and work in, and that is why your heart feels good after every purchase.

  14. Published

    The strawberries are coming! The strawberries are coming! May is National Strawberry Month so you might start seeing sales or promotions in grocery stores and locally grown strawberries will be available soon at local farmers markets and pick-your-own sites.

    Like other berries, a wonderfully ripe strawberry just bursts with juice and flavor. You can find strawberries year-round in stores, but the best quality and lowest prices will be in late spring and summer months when the berries are in-season.

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    April is national stress awareness month. As we continue to face new seasons in life, let's take a few minutes to talk about stress and how we can better manage it. Everyone experiences stress. However, each of us experiences stress differently. Stress is how our brain and body respond to any challenge. When most people think of stress, they typically think of significant life changes, such as the birth of a child, moving to a new home, starting a new job, or a traumatic event, such as an unwanted diagnosis or losing a loved one.

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    Food is a valuable resource and it’s often the center of our celebrations and life events so why do we let so much go to waste? The average person tosses about one pound of food per day. Small amounts of food waste may go unnoticed over time but households account for 38% of all food waste, which is more than grocery stores, restaurants, or any other sector!

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    Onions can serve as the star in a recipe like onion soup or play a supporting role. For today's post, I'll talk about more common bulb and spring onions, and others in the allium genus, including leeks, shallots, and chives.

    Nutritionally, a single medium raw bulb onion contains around 60 calories, 14g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, and is a source of vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin C, potassium, and phosphorus. Like many non-starchy veggies, onions are not a significant source of fat, protein, or sodium.

  18. Published

    Along with green peas, broccoli might be tied as the most unpopular veggie with kids. I was an exception. As a kid and adult, broccoli is one of my favorite veggies - cooked at least. Raw broccoli doesn't appeal to me. Even a dietitian has food preferences, so this is a reminder that how food is presented changes its flavor, texture, and acceptability to kids and adults alike. If broccoli hasn't been a favorite veggie, try out some of the different recipes in this post. You might find one you enjoy.

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    “Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.” - Ron Hall

  20. Published

    Do you feel pressed for time in the morning but still want to enjoy a heart-healthy breakfast? Well I’m here to help!

    Breakfast is an important part of the day and an opportunity to fill your body with the fuel it needs to accomplish goals and complete daily tasks. The foods you choose influence your health so it’s wise to make smart choices early on. One healthy choice will surely lead to another.