Do You Really Need to Wash Your Vegetables?

Do you really need to wash your vegetables

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has recently released the “Dirty Dozen” list of vegetables and fruits for 2016. The EWG analyzes test results of thousands of samples of vegetables and fruits taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine the amount of pesticide residue.

The list looks a little different this year as strawberries have moved into first place, meaning the majority of samples were found to have pesticide residue.  The EWG found that 98% of the non-organic strawberry samples had pesticide residue. Findings like this can be controversial, and other government agencies refute that the pesticides identified are harmful. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responded by saying that the pesticide levels found are not harmful for consumption and they perform dietary assessments to establish tolerance and safety of pesticides. It is important to note that even organic products may have some pesticide residue.

We know a higher consumption of vegetables and fruits promote better health. Organic is usually more expensive, which leads many to purchase non-organic fresh, canned, and frozen vegetables and fruits. Regardless of buying organic or non-organic, both should be washed thoroughly. Incorporating vegetables and fruits on a daily basis promotes better health and a longer life, so we just need to be as knowledgeable as possible about where they are coming from, how to wash them, and how to prepare them safely.

2016 “Dirty Dozen”

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Sweet bell peppers
  11. Cherry tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers

Dirty Dozen


Fruit and Nut Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Dressing

Fruit and Nut Salad

Fruit and Nut Salad

1 bag lettuce mix
½-1 bag of spinach
¼ cup dried cranberries
4-6 strawberries (sliced)
½  red onion (sliced)
1 apple (sliced)
¼ cup nuts (your choice: pecans, walnuts, etc.)

Optional Add-ons:
Fresh grated parmesan cheese

Berry Poppy Seed Dressing

½-1  cup fresh berries (your choice: raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
1/8 cup honey
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 jar of poppy seed dressing 


  • Mix lettuce and spinach in a large bowl.
  • Mix in dried cranberries, sliced strawberries, red onions, apples, and nuts.
  • Puree fresh berries with olive oil and honey.
  • Blend berry puree with 1 jar of poppy seed dressing.
Fruit and Nut Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Dressing
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  1. Fruit and Nut Salad
  2. 1 bag lettuce mix
  3. ½-1 bag of spinach
  4. ¼ cup dried cranberries
  5. 4-6 strawberries (sliced)
  6. ½ red onion (sliced)
  7. 1 apple (sliced)
  8. ¼ cup nuts (your choice: pecans, walnuts, etc.)
  9. Berry Poppy Seed Dressing
  10. ½-1 cup fresh berries (your choice: raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
  11. 1/8 cup honey
  12. 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  13. 1 jar of poppy seed dressing
  1. Mix lettuce and spinach in a large bowl.
  2. Mix in dried cranberries, sliced strawberries, red onions, apples, and nuts.
  3. Puree fresh berries with olive oil and honey.
  4. Blend berry puree with 1 jar of poppy seed dressing.
Optional Add-ons
  1. Croutons
  2. Fresh grated parmesan cheese
Something to Chew

How to Pick a Good One

We want to feed our family the best quality fruits and vegetables to balance your plate. When you are at the grocery store or farmers’ market, how do you pick fresh fruits and vegetables? Here are some ideas to help.

How to pick a good one


  • Pick a watermelon that has a yellow belly. These large yellow spots indicate the watermelon is ripe and ready to eat.


  • If you are wanting the tomato for immediate use, pick a bright red tomato, but if you are wanting the tomato for future use, pick a pale pink/orange tomato.
  • Don’t store your tomatoes in the fridge. The colder temperature from the fridge causes the tomato to undergo a change that weakens the flavor and texture, which in turn causes it to ripen faster.


  • Store peppers in the fridge, unwashed in a plastic bag. Typically, red, yellow and orange peppers can last 4-5 days and green peppers last about a week.

Sweet Corn:

  • Feel the cob to see how tight the husk is on the cob. When the cob feels tight, it usually means there is a high water content in the corn kernels. This means the corn is fresh. Also, older husks will start to brown and have a more wrinkled texture.


  • Look for a golden-colored melon with a clean, round hole where the stem was.
  • A little fact about melon: 1 cup of honeydew melon provides the same amount of potassium as a banana.


  • Avoid purchasing asparagus with ‘woody’ ends. A sign of aging is dry, split ends. The ends should be compact, firm and dry.


  • Give the mango a squeeze. If it is ripe, the mango will give a little without being squishy.

In the end, if unsure about the produce item, ask the vendor to share the tips and tricks for that particular fruit/vegetable.

Visit us this summer at the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market!

Megan Klemm

Savor the Flavor of Eating Right

Happy National Nutrition Month! National Nutrition Month has evolved from a one-week celebration in March to a month-long observance. This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” The idea behind this is to enjoy all aspects of food: taste, temperature, smells, texture and color. Many of us are busy and our food choices get put on the “back burner,” whether that means we skip meals entirely or we don’t take the time that we should to make healthy food choices. So many of us eat at our desk or while driving in our car. We do not stop and actually enjoy what we are eating!

So many of us eat at our desk or while driving in our car. We do not stop and actually enjoy what we are eating!

A huge component of the theme this year is “mindful eating.” What exactly does that mean? Mindful eating means eliminating distractions and enjoying the food in front of you! We have so many distractions on a daily basis—TV, phone, computer, etc. It is important to be aware of those distractions and eliminate as many as possible to be able to return to food and focus. Mindful eating can provide the opportunity to make changes in what we are eating and how we are eating. It can also help us change our relationship with food. Are we seeing food as a type of pleasure and comfort, or are we seeing food as fuel—nutrients that the body needs to function? Mindful eating provides us with an opportunity to become more “in tune” with physical hunger versus emotional hunger (stress, boredom, sadness, etc.).

A great goal for Nutrition Month (and every month!) is to make as many meals at home in the company of those in your home! Be mindful of what you are eating—McDonald’s hamburger and fries or shredded Italian Chicken and fresh veggies at home? Choose whole foods, like fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains and proteins. Use olive oil, shallots, green onions, garlic, ground black pepper, and/or red pepper flakes to bring out robust flavors and smells in healthy dishes!

Alana Scopel

Are GMOs Healthy or Harmful?

Genetically Modified Organisms…what a complicated topic. A question about the safety of GMOs was asked at our recent Doctor Is In, Ask a Dietitian panel. This is also a question that my family and I often get asked; I’m married to a 6th generation conventional farmer and I’m a registered dietitian, so it’s inevitable that some questions about GMO, antibiotics and/or hormones are going to get asked. Of all these, I personally feel the GMO topic is the toughest question to answer. Why? Because there is so much information/marketing out there to try and decipher. What is factual and what is not can be difficult to figure out. So here is some factual information I feel good in providing to you regarding GMOs.

I’m married to a 6th generation conventional farmer and a registered dietitian, so it’s inevitable that some question about GMO, antibiotic, and/or hormones are going to get asked.

1. What is a GMO? A genetically modified organism (GMO) is created by taking a beneficial trait, like insect resistance, from one living thing and introducing it into another to help it thrive in its environment.

2. There are currently 8 commercially GMO crops available: corn, soybean, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, papaya and squash.

3. For thousands of years, humans have been genetically enhancing organisms through the practice of selective breeding (what we learned about in Science class in school). Believe it or not, seedless watermelon, honeycrisp apples, grape tomatoes, broccolini, wheat and sweet corn came about due to selective breeding, which took many years, but not the use of modern technology.

4. Today the technology we have can better help us with the process of selective breeding and better gene enhancement. Today’s crops can use water more efficiently, allow farmers to use less pesticide/herbicide/insecticide applications and have larger harvests. This ultimately allows farmers to grow crops that are sustainable and to improve soil health, water retention, and reduce runoff.

5. Genetically modified crops have to be safety tested by a certified independent third party using protocols required by the government and regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Untimely the choice is yours whether or not to consume foods that have been genetically modified. As a farmer’s wife, I feel good stating that GMO foods are safe to eat, and as a Registered Dietitian, I don’t have a preference whether the food is GMO, non-GMO, organic or conventionally grown — as long as you are getting your fruits, vegetables, whole foods and less processed foods in, the healthier you will be!

This video, I feel, explains WELL what a GMO is:

GMO Answers is good website that can answer more questions you may have.


Megan Klemm

4 Healthy Heart Tips

Happy American Heart Month! Each February, we bring awareness to the importance of a healthy heart. Why is this important? Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. It is true that there are genetic components of heart disease, but lifestyle is also a major contributing factor. This week, I did a presentation on heart health at Springfield Clinic’s “Girls Night Out.” Here are the top 4 takeaways…

4 healthy heart tips

1. Heart-healthy fats

When counseling patients on fat, I emphasize that fat is a macronutrient, which means we need it for survival! We need healthy fats to be healthy! I always encourage olive oil as the plant-based oil of choice. Next to olive oil, I recommend real butter. Yes, real butter! Butter is actually made from whole ingredients that we can source, versus margarine and other liquid oils that have preservatives. I encourage patients to use olive oil as often as possible.

2. Sodium

Our bodies actually need sodium in appropriate amounts for nerves and proper muscle function. It is pretty safe to say that the majority of Americans consume more sodium than needed. Surprisingly, high salt intake does not come from the salt shaker! Sodium is found in fast food meals, sit-down restaurant meals and processed foods filling the shelves at the store. The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg of sodium daily for optimal cardiovascular health. For comparison, there is close to 1,500 mg sodium in 1 package of ramen noodles! A higher intake of salt is correlated with higher blood pressure. Salt attracts water into the bloodstream, which increases the volume of blood pumping. Imagine increasing the water supply to a hose. The increased water supply causes increased pressure as water moves through the hose. I recommend patients read nutrition labels for sodium information if they have heart disease or have a family history.

3. Vegetables and fruit

Dietitians do not recommend the ideal 5 cups of vegetables and fruit daily for no reason! Higher intakes of vegetables and fruit are associated with better cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Fruit and especially non-starchy vegetables contain fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. Higher intakes of vegetables and fruit are also shown to improve blood pressure.

4. Exercise

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of physical activity each week. This is about 30 minutes 5 x per week. Regular physical activity is shown to increase HDL or “good cholesterol” and improve blood pressure. Two days per week of weight-bearing exercise is also encouraged to improve/maintain muscle mass.

Visit to find helpful tips on losing weight, how to keep weight off, and recipes that are heart-healthy!

For healthy heart recipes, visit our Health Library.

Alana Scopel