Eat Smart With Fresh Apples This Season

Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agriculture Research Service.

“Mom, are apples ‘Eat Smart. Play Hard.’ foods?” my daughter asked as she looked out a window at the bumper crop of apples on our lone tree. She was 4 at the time.

“They sure are! They have vitamin C that’s good for your skin and fiber that’s good for your heart,” I said.

She smiled broadly at the approval. Then I helped her locate her heart and pulse. She was impressed.

I was happy that she remembered the slogan that we in the NDSU Extension Service have been using to teach kids around the state about nutrition and fitness for many years. She matched the slogan to a healthy snack, too, I thought to myself.

“I want to pick apples, too!” she announced as her older brother and sister headed into our backyard with plastic bags.

“She drops them on the ground and picks up the bad ones!” my then-12-year-old son said as he grabbed the apple picker.

My daughter, who was 9 at the time, nodded and said to her sister, “Yes, you need to stay inside!”

A battle of the siblings was brewing and it was going to be loud. I grabbed my little girl’s hand and sidestepped the eruption about to take place.

“OK, you’ll help me. I’ll pick the apples and give them to you. You’ll gently put them in the bag so we don’t bruise them. Can you do that?” I asked her.

“Yes, I can!” she said, looking at her siblings through narrowed eyes. They grinned at their defiant little sister. She was a good apple-picking assistant. Even better, they all enjoyed apple slices for a snack.

Prepare and Use Apples in a Variety of Ways

Ripe, tart apples from backyard trees or farmers markets are a sure sign of fall. Eating an apple a day can help you meet the 2 cups of fruit per day recommendation for most people.

A medium apple, which is about the size of a tennis ball, contains about 80 calories, 3 grams of dietary fiber and only a trace of fat. The type of fiber apples contain, called pectin, has been linked with lowering blood cholesterol and potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.

Choose apples that have no bruises, cuts or other damage. Bacteria, molds and other “germs” are more likely to grow in damaged areas. Remember to wash apples with plenty of water, but no soap, right before eating or preparing for a recipe.

Store apples in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, preferably one with holes or perforations. This helps prevent moisture buildup. Apples release ethylene gas, which can promote ripening of other fruits and vegetables. Remove any “bad apples” with moldy or decayed areas on the fruit.

A Special Note About Apple Cider

If you press apples to make apple juice or cider, be sure to heat the juice to at least 165 degrees to kill bacteria that could be present. Foodborne illness outbreaks have been associated with fresh, unpasteurized apple juice. Store heat-treated apple juice in the refrigerator.

From applesauce to apple juice, apples are consumed in a variety of ways. Think about your favorite apple recipes. While an occasional piece of regular apple pie won’t give you an apple shape, overindulging in sweet desserts regularly could change your proportions. A typical slice of apple pie has about 525 calories and almost 30 grams of fat.

Instead, enjoy this tasty fat-free dessert or snack that’s much lower in calories than a slice of pie.

Homemade Applesauce

7 apples, quartered
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. sugar

Wash and then cut apples in quarters. Apples can be peeled, but fiber will be decreased. Combine apples and water in saucepan. Heat mixture to boiling. Turn heat to low as soon as the water is boiling. Simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until apples are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Stir in sugar and heat until sugar is dissolved.

Serving suggestion: Add 1 tablespoon cinnamon and stir before serving. You can adjust the amount to your taste preference.

Note: Additional sugar can be added to increase sweetness. Brown sugar can be used instead of white.

Makes 10 servings, 1/2 cup each. A serving has 70 calories, 0 grams (g) of fat, 18 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 8 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

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