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How to Store Summer Fruits and Vegetables

So, you’ve succumbed to the bounty of summer, filled your arms, baskets, countertops and refrigerator with the colors of the rainbow — all the fruits, vegetables and herbs that are filling the market right now. And it tastes so good, doesn’t it? The hardest part about this cornucopia of deliciousness is keeping it all fresh and tasting its best.

Here’s our quick guide to keeping those fresh nibbles at their peak until you’re ready to prepare. For example, did you know that storing fruits and vegetables together is the quickest (and most common) way to prematurely ripen (and ruin) your foods? Fruits give off a high level of ethylene (a ripening agent) that can prematurely ripen (and spoil) nearby vegetables.

In a nutshell, the “one bad apple” adage rings true. Instead, treat each fruit and vegetable with specific care.

A FEW BROAD TIPS

VEGETABLES

Before storing fresh veggies, remove all ties and rubber bands and trim leafy ends, but leave an inch to keep the veggies from drying out. If you’re storing veggies in a bag, make sure there’s a hole to allow airflow, then pack the veggies loosely in the refrigerator to prevent premature rotting (they still need room to breathe in there). The more space they have, the longer they’ll stay fresh. Pro tip: Leafy greens can be washed before storing by soaking them in a sink full of water, while soft herbs and mushrooms should not be washed until right before they are used.

FRUITS

Stone fruits, avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples and pears continue to ripen if left sitting on a countertop, so only leave them out if you don’t mind them getting a bit more ripe. (Store them in the fridge when you’re ready to slow that process.) Fruits like bell peppers (yes, fruits!), grapes, citrus, berries and cherries start to deteriorate if they aren’t refrigerated. Bananas, in particular, ripen very quickly, and also speed the ripening of any nearby fruits.

A FEW SPECIFIC TIPS

BERRIES

Berries are tremendously delicate once picked … and expensive. (Making them all the more disappointing when they spoil prematurely.) Wash your berries in a diluted vinegar bath (1 cup vinegar plus 3 cups water) and gently spin them dry in a salad spinner lined with paper towels until they are completely dry. The vinegar helps to destroy mold spores and bacteria on the berries that threaten ripeness. Store the cleaned berries in a sealable container lined with paper towels, leaving the lid open a little to allow moisture to escape.


READ MORE > 7 REASONS (BEYOND TASTE) TO CHOW DOWN ON RASPBERRIES


CHERRIES

Cold storage is key to keeping cherries fresh. Cherries lose more quality in one hour at room temperature than a day in the refrigerator. So get those cherries in the fridge as soon as possible, preferably wrapped in a plastic bag. Avoid washing them until just before eating and always use cold water.

CUCUMBERS

Even though chilled cucumbers are the epitome of refreshing, they should be stored at room temperature — not in the refrigerator. Cucumbers are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F so cucumbers thrive and last longer at room temperature. If you store them in the fridge (below 50 degrees,) they’re prone to developing “chilling injuries,” including water-soaked areas, pitting and accelerated decay.  If you keep your cukes on the countertop, know that they’re highly susceptible to ethylene — the ripening agent in most fruits — so keep them separate. And, if you insist on chilling your cukes, keep them toward the front of the fridge in the middle where it’s warmer, and eat within three days.

GREENS

The best way to store fresh, leafy greens is to wash them, shake off the excess water in a salad spinner, then spread the greens on paper or cloth towels to dry. With the greens still on the towels, roll the towels and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat; unroll the towels just enough to retrieve your greens then roll them up again! The absorbent towels do a great job of keeping the greens moist, but not wet, and protect the greens from the sometimes harsh conditions in the fridge.

HERBS

The best way to store fresh herbs is to keep them like you would flowers — in a vase of water. Trim the stems every few days to keep the herbs fresh, and use at will.

ONIONS

Surprisingly enough, onions ripen quickly in the fridge and give off a high amount of ethylene … so we suggest storing them well away from all other fruits and vegetables on the countertop. This not only keeps your onions ripe, but keeps everything else in the fridge ripe longer, too.

ROOT VEGETABLES

Carrots, radishes and beets and other root vegetables are hearty in your recipes, but are actually relatively delicate and tend to wilt and get limp once picked and refrigerated. For snappy carrots, beets and radishes, trim, then store them in a bowl of cold water, covered in the fridge.

STONE FRUIT

Plums, peaches, apricots and nectarines continue to ripen when stored at room temperature on the countertop. We suggest keeping them on the countertop until just before peak texture and taste, then refrigerate and eat as soon as possible. (That is, if your fresh summer peaches make it more than a day at home.)


READ MORE > THE TRUTH ABOUT CORN


SWEET CORN

You can theoretically store corn for several days refrigerated in the husk, but they will gradually lose their sweetness and begin to taste starchy even when cooked. Corn connoisseurs will tell you sweet corn should be eaten the day it’s picked, preferably within hours, while the corn is at its sugary peak. With any corn you can’t eat right away, it’s best to slice off the kernels and freeze them for using in soups or salads.

TOMATOES

In his book, “On Food and Cooking,” Harold McGee explains that refrigerating tomatoes damages the membranes inside the fruit walls, causing the tomato to lose flavor and develop the mealy texture we associate with mid-January grocery store tomatoes. The best way to store tomatoes is on the countertop at room temperature. They actually continue to develop flavor until maturation peaks a few days after picking.

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Feeling Better About Your Body Could be a Workout Away

Not loving the way you feel in your favorite jeans? You’re not alone. A 2016 survey calls low confidence and appearance anxiety a “critical issue” and reports that 85% of women have opted out of important life activities such as joining a team or spending time with loved ones when they didn’t feel good about how they looked.

Hitting the gym could help. New research shows a single sweat session could buff up your body image.

A 2017 study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that women who engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for 30 minutes felt stronger and had better body image than those who were sedentary for the same period of time.

“We think that the feelings of strength and empowerment women achieve post exercise stimulate an improved internal dialogue. This in turn should generate positive thoughts and feelings about their bodies which may replace the all too common negative ones,” lead author Kathleen Martin Ginis, PhD, professor at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan School of Health and Exercise Sciences said in a statement.

Heather Hausenblas, PhD, associate dean for the School of Applied Health Sciences at Jacksonville University in Florida, believes body image could be a powerful motivator for exercise. “Perception is very powerful,” she says. “Exercise results in improvements in mood and self-esteem, which are related to body image.”

But Hausenblas notes that the effects of exercise on body image are transient. In the Psychology of Sport and Exercise study, the body image boost lasted for 20 minutes after a workout. A separate study found that active women who took a 72-hour break from exercise had higher levels of body dissatisfaction than those who maintained their workout routines. In other words, maximizing those feel-good vibes requires engaging in regular exercise — but that doesn’t necessarily mean working out to achieve weight loss or developing a chiseled chest or six-pack abs.


READ MORE > WHY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ALONE WON’T GUARANTEE WEIGHT LOSS


In 2009, Hausenblas co-authored a study in the Journal of Health Psychology that found exercisers did not need to hit workout milestones like losing fat, gaining strength or even boosting cardiovascular fitness to feel good about their bodies. In fact, she believes, “Messages promoting exercise need to de-emphasize weight loss and appearance. The key to long-term exercise is finding deeper motivation than washboard abs. We need to set healthy and realistic exercise goals and stop focusing on what we think is wrong with our bodies [and] focus on becoming fit and healthy for life.”


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT

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> Women’s Workout Pants


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5 Plant-Based Protein Powders Worth Adding to Your Next Smoothie

One of the three macronutrients, along with fat and carbs, protein helps us feel full, achieve weight-loss goals and build muscle. However, most of us struggle to get enough in our diets, especially if we’re following a plant-based or vegan diet. An easy way to increase your daily protein intake is with protein powders because they are convenient and often inexpensive compared to high-protein, animal-based foods like meat, fish and dairy. Also, there are a variety of plant-based protein powders on the market that offer other health benefits, like fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

Here are five plant-based protein powders worth tossing into your basket the next time you’re grocery shopping:

1. PEA PROTEIN

With 15 grams of protein per serving, pea protein is made from the yellow pea, a legume rich in fiber and micronutrients like B vitamins. Though it’s not a complete protein, pea protein is a good plant-based option for vegans and vegetarians. With an earthy flavor, pea protein is best used in recipes that have a lot of flavor, like this Ultimate Banana Berry Smoothie Bowl.  


READ MORE > BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE


2. BROWN RICE PROTEIN

Though brown rice protein isn’t a complete protein, it’s rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber and has 24 grams protein per serving. It’s also easily digestible and well suited for people with food allergies. Bonus: It has a neutral flavor that doesn’t overpower — or compete with — other flavors so feel free to mix it into your smoothie along with coffee, matcha or mango.  

3. HEMP PROTEIN

Made with hemp seeds, hemp protein powder offers 15 grams of protein per serving and is high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. The upside is it’s one of the few plant-based proteins that is a complete protein source with 20 amino acids — making it especially good for vegans. One caveat: Because it’s high in fiber, hemp protein may be difficult to digest, especially if consumed before working out. With an earthy flavor, hemp pairs well with banana, unsweetened nut milk and a bit of honey in a smoothie.


READ MORE > LEMON COCONUTE PROTEIN NO-BAKE BITES


4. PUMPKIN SEED PROTEIN

Made from ground pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed protein powder delivers 19 grams of protein per serving and also contains essential omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids. This vegan protein option also packs a extra nutritional punch, containing micronutrients like vitamin K, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and other minerals including zinc, iron and copper.

5. SOY PROTEIN

Soy protein powder is one of a few plant sources that offers all of the essential amino acids and about 20 grams of protein per serving. This protein powder is a rich source of arginine, an amino acid important for immunity and cardiovascular health. In addition, several years ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved a health claim for soy protein stating that “25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Tried and true in smoothies, these protein powders are an easy way to boost the protein quotient in bars and bites, too. With so many different options — whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free or anything in between, these plant-based protein powders are a convenient and nutritious way to increase your protein intake.

Share your favorite protein powder in the comments below!

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The 5 Worst Things to Say to Someone Who Is Losing Weight

When someone in your life is in the process of losing weight, what should you do? Should you draw attention to the weight loss and applaud the person, or should you de-emphasize it and avoid talking about it? The knee-jerk reaction is often to compliment and praise people for how great they look and for all their hard work. But is hearing those things truly helpful?

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I’ve worked with hundreds of people who have successfully shed pounds. To my surprise, many of them have related the same message: They don’t like it when people notice and talk about their weight loss. They don’t want to be complimented, praised or even have attention drawn to them. Instead of having every conversation revolve around their pants size, they want to talk about other things with their friends and loved ones.

For people on the sidelines wanting to show support and love, it can be hard to understand why someone wouldn’t want to hear words of encouragement. It can be challenging to put yourself in that position and understand how someone might misinterpret your well-intentioned comments.

There are people who love to get positive comments and feedback about their weight-loss progress. Not everyone is sensitive to words of encouragement, but it’s more common than you’d think to have a negative reaction.

Let’s dive into the top five things you probably shouldn’t say to someone who is losing weight.

1. “HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?”

This is problematic because it assumes they couldn’t possibly be happy with where they are now. Different people have different weights at which they are comfortable, so who are we to judge?

2. “YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO EAT THAT, RIGHT?”

Foods that are high in fat or sugar are often vilified. A person who is actively losing weight might have it built into their plan to enjoy or indulge in those foods occasionally. The last thing you want to do as a support in their life is increase food anxiety or induce guilt about eating certain things. Trust them, and don’t critique their food choices.


READ MORE > AFTER THE WEIGHT LOSS: 3 MYFITNESSPAL USERS SHARE THEIR UNEXPECTED JOURNEYS


3. “YOU LOOK SO MUCH BETTER THAN BEFORE.”

This is clearly not the most helpful thing to say to someone, but it does occasionally slip out of our mouths. Avoid comparing their appearance from before and after. Chances are, they’re already doing enough of that in their own head. If they want your opinion, they can ask!

4. “YOU’RE JUST GOING TO GAIN IT BACK ANYWAY.”

This statement conveys a lack of confidence in your loved one’s ability to maintain weight loss and could be very discouraging to hear. It’s disheartening even if you meant it as a joke.

5. “WOW, YOU LOOK SO GOOD!”

This is the real kicker. People say this all the time and usually have nothing but good vibes they’re trying to send. This can be interpreted in many problematic ways, though. People often wonder what was wrong with them before or why everyone is noticing their body. This well-meaning statement can cause body-image issues to surface, which can — in the worst case — trigger an eating disorder.

I don’t think we should feel like we have to walk on eggshells around one another. I do think we can increase our awareness of others’ experiences and try to focus on people, not their bodies.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t talk about each other’s weight at all; you never really know what someone is going through. Someone could be losing weight due to secretly dealing with a cancer diagnosis, they could be struggling with an eating disorder or they could be going through an extremely difficult time with their mental health. People you’re trying to support can sometimes equate your compliments about their weight loss as an indicator that there was something wrong with them when they weighed more.

Even when someone enjoys and appreciates hearing the positive feedback from people around them, there’s a chance of developing problematic eating behaviors as a result of the affirmation. A straightforward effort for weight loss can lead to obsession, restriction and disordered eating, triggered by compliments that are twisted into motivation for unhealthy behaviors.

If you notice someone in your life has lost weight, ask them how they’re genuinely doing. Compliment them on how happy and confident they seem. Draw attention to their strengths as a human being, and convey unconditional love and support. Avoid conversations about food, weight and body image unless someone reaches out to you asking for help and support with those issues.

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