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One of the most familiar fruits to children and adults alike is the banana. It's no wonder it winds up on most people's grocery list trip after trip; with a peel that can come off in a matter of seconds, it serves as a convenient and quick snack option for those at home or on the go.

Bananas are picked before they are ripe, which means they'll be Kermit the Frog green. Depending upon when you plan to use them, select slightly green bananas at the store, as they will continue to ripen at room temperature at home. As they ripen, the peel turns yellow and develops brown speckles producing a sweeter taste. While the amount of total carbohydrates in an unripe and ripe banana are the same, an unripe banana contains more resistant starch, which is absorbed slowly and promotes fullness. Once fully ripe, you may store bananas in their peel in the refrigerator for 5-7 days to extend shelf life or freeze 2-3 months. The peel will turn black, but the fruit will not be harmed. Use very ripe bananas in quick breads, muffins, cookies, pancakes, smoothies or oatmeal. Bananas can even reduce or replace the fat and added sugars in many baked goods!

Bananas are packed with nutrients, including 20% of the daily value for vitamin B6, 17% of the daily value for vitamin C, and 12% of the daily value for potassium. One medium banana also provides three grams of dietary fiber, considered a high fiber source. For those who have diabetes or use the carbohydrate counting method, one medium banana has 27 grams of carbohydrate, which is two carbohydrate servings. Keep bananas on the grocery list; their versatility and nutrient density make them an outstanding choice!

Flourless Chocolate Banana Cookies (Printable PDF)

2 very ripe bananas, peeled

1 cup instant oats

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking oil. In a medium bowl, mash bananas with a fork until mostly smooth. Add oats, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Gently fold in mini chocolate chips. Drop rounded tablespoons of mixture onto cookie sheet. Flatten mounds with a fork. Bake 15-18 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool. Refrigerate leftovers.

Yield: 12 cookies

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 60 calories, 1 gram fat, 50 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams protein