Community Nutrition

Storage Life of Fruits and Vegetables

Make that produce last!

If fruits and vegetables sit around too long before being served and eaten, they can quickly go bad. Throwing away bruised, moldy, or spoiled produce is like throwing away money…and nutrition!

Proper storage can help your fruit and veggies last the maximum number of days in your house.  You can also purchase fruits and vegetables that have a longer storage life, like apples and carrots. When you make an effort to eat fruits and vegetables each day and follow these storage tips, you may find that you aren’t throwing away produce anymore.

Assorted fruitFruits

Refrigerate your ripe fruits so they can last longer. Even bananas can be refrigerated — the peel will turn brown, but the inside will stay nice and ripe!

Also, store apples and grapes inside plastic bags and store any cut melon in air-tight containers.

How long can fruits be stored without going bad?

  • 3+ weeks: apples, grapefruit, kiwi
  • 2 weeks: bananas, blueberries, honeydew, lemon, lime, tangerine, cherries, orange
  • 1 week: grapes
  • 5 days: cantaloupe, watermelon, pears
  • 2-3 days: nectarine, strawberries
  • 1-2 days: mango, peach, raspberries

vegetables clip art


Most veggies need to be refrigerated. Exceptions include whole onions and sweet potatoes, which should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place.  Also, store your tomatoes at room temp, away from direct sunlight.

All veggies should be wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge, and spinach, collard greens, and asparagus should also be wrapped in a damp paper towel within the plastic bag.  Store mushrooms in the original container or a sealed container.

How long can veggies be stored without going bad?

  • 3-5 weeks: whole onions, sweet potatoes
  • 2-3 weeks: rhubarb, carrots
  • 1 week: artichokes, Brussels sprouts, cucumber, green beans, cabbage, lettuce, mushrooms, radishes, tomato
  • 5 days: bell pepper, cauliflower
  • 3-5 days: broccoli, spinach, asparagus
  • 1-3 days: cut onions, collard greens
  • ASAP: green onion, summer squash, corn (with husk)
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On Rotation with West Virginia WIC


This week I have been on my dietetic internship rotation with WIC, the “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children”.  I have been familiar with the program for a while, but had never been inside a WIC clinic or really spoken with a WIC recipient before, so I have learned quite a bit about how it works in just the 3 days I’ve been there so far.

As you may know, WIC provides its participants with free monthly food vouchers that can be used at grocery stores (such as Walmart or Kroger) to receive specific food items.  In that way, WIC is not like SNAP (Food Stamps). SNAP benefits can be used on any food items, including junk food like chips, soda, cookies, ice cream, and candy bars.  WIC, instead, provides participants with the basic, healthy foods that can assure families they are getting the nutrition they need.

WIC approved food list

Not every WIC participant receives the same package — it can all vary based on whether an infant is breastfeed exclusively, partially, or is formula fed.  When a child reaches 6 months, age 1, and age 2, the food packages also change.  Examples of the foods on the various vouchers include:

  • Canned fish (tuna, salmon)
  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Beans (dried or canned)
  • Milk (whole, 2% or less, depending on age of participant, as well as soy milk/lactaid in some cases)
  • Cheese
  • Infant formula
  • Infant cereal, fruits, vegetables, meats
  • Fresh produce
  • Juices (apple, grape, grapefruit, tomato, vegetable, orange, pineapple)
  • Whole grain breads
  • Cereals (certain brands, such as Cheerios, Wheaties, Life, Corn Chex, Special K, and Honey Bunches of Oats)

WIC is far more than a program that provides food vouchers to women, infants, and children. Although that is a large part of what WIC does, it also has an incredible amount of valuable resources that families can utilize.

WIC clients can receive personalized nutrition education and counseling from RDs and WIC nutritionists.  International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are there to provide information about breastfeeding, hold breastfeeding classes, offer to weigh your baby pre/post nursing to find out exactly how much breastmilk the baby is receiving in a feeding, rent out breastpumps, and provide breastfeeding support and education.  Children can be immunized at the WIC center in Morgantown and hemoglobin levels can be checked.  The child’s height/length, weight, and BMI can also be measured over time in order to track the child’s development and growth.  At WIC, families can also receive referrals for other programs like Birth to Three and the WV Tobacco Quitline, and other medical professionals, such as local dentists who will see young children.

To be eligible to be a WIC participant, several criteria must be met.  Pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding an infant under 1 year of age, postpartum women to the 6th month after delivery (ie: moms who are formula feeding their 5.5 month old), and children from 0-5 years of age can qualify for WIC.  The participants must also exhibit nutritional risk, such as low iron levels or inadequate dietary intake.  Additionally, certain income guidelines must be followed.  A single mother of 2 children who makes less than $35,317 a year could qualify for WIC benefits.  A woman, pregnant with her first child, who makes less than $20,665 a year could also qualify.  Or, a family of 6 (mom, dad, and 4 kids) who makes less than $57,295 could also qualify. Full income guidelines, which are reviewed for updates each year can be found here.

I think WIC is a pretty great resource that provides nutrition and health education to a population that needs it.  By providing nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding support and education, and other health screenings, it helps kids get off to a healthy start. And I think that’s something we can all agree is a great thing!

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Cleft Lip/Palate

This week I was at the Center for Excellence in Disabilities for my dietetic internship. The dietitian at the CED sees children with various disabilities and diagnoses that can affect nutritional status, growth, and feeding/mealtime routine.  Examples of diagnoses include cerebral palsy, autism, cleft lip/palate, Treacher Collins syndrome, stickler syndrome, Pierre Robin Sequence, children with developmental delays, down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, and more.

Although I didn’t see any patients with cleft lip/palate that week, I was able to read quite a bit about it and watch a few educational videos about how to feed infants with cleft lip/palate, and I thought I’d share a bit what I learned!

Cleft lip or palate both occur in the first 10 weeks gestation.  In these first 10 weeks, the left and right sides of the face and the roof of the mouth join together.  When these sides fail to join correctly, it results in an opening of the lip or the roof of the mouth.  These can be “unilateral” – just on the right or left side of the face or palate — or “bilateral” — on both sides of the face.  Cleft lip/palate can occur separately or together, and are present in 1 in 700-800 births.

Complete unilateral cleft lip and palate.

Complete unilateral cleft lip and palate.

Children born with cleft lip or cleft palate or both, will almost always need surgery to correct this condition.  Cleft lip can be repaired in the first 3 months of a child’s life, and cleft palate  can be repaired after the first year of life, at about 12-18 months of age.  Surgery for cleft lip generally follows the “rule of 10” : The child must weigh at least 10 pounds, have a hemoglobin of at least 10, and be at least 10 weeks old.

Besides surgery to close the opening in the lip or palate, children may also need to see a team of professionals in order to get help with their eating, teeth, speech, ears and hearing (fluid buildup can lead to ear infections and hearing problems), and social/psychological development as the years go by. A team of professionals may include ENTs, pediatricians, orthodontists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, plastic surgeons, prosthodontists, pediatric dentists, speech pathologists, audiologists, nurses, genetic counselors, psychologists, social workers, and dietitians.

Nutritionally, children born with cleft lip/palate at most at nutritional risk at 0-4 months of age.  It can be difficult for a child to be able to breastfeed, especially in those with cleft palate. Formula can spurt out the child’s nose, and the child can have difficulty forming a seal around a baby bottle and having proper suction.  These difficulties with feeding can lead to failure to thrive if not taken care of.

There are tips and tools that parents can use with their infants with cleft lip/palate to make sure their child is getting enough calories.  Holding the child in an upright/45 degree angle position can help limit the amount of formula that enters the nasal passage and comes out the nose.  Special baby bottles that are squeezable are a great aid for infants that need some extra help.  Formula can be squeezed into the baby’s mouth via a “pulse squeeze” pattern.  Babies with cleft lip/palate will also need to be burped more often because they swallow more air during feedings. In more serious cases, such as infants with exceptionally wide cleft palates, a G tube may be needed (feeding tube that delivers nutrition directly into the stomach).

Special bottles that can aid in successfully feeding an infant with cleft lip or cleft palate.

Special bottles that can aid in successfully feeding an infant with cleft lip or cleft palate.

With the help of special feeders and appropriate care via a team of medical professionals, the child should grow normally and go on to lead healthy, happy, productive lives.


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Nutrition Counseling on Campus

One of the great services that WVU provides their students, is the free service of seeing a Registered Dietitian on campus.  I know of a lot of universities across the US have a Registered Dietitian on staff, sometimes through the student recreation center or student dining services.  However at many universities students have to pay a fee to meet with a dietitian, so I think its great to have a free service here at WVU.

Students can set up a meeting with the RD for many different reasons. Meetings can be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour in length, depending on the student and their goals.  They may want to talk about recent food allergies, weight loss, weight gain, muscle gain, body composition change, how to eat for an upcoming race or competition (ie: marathon, 1/2 marathon, sprint triathlon), eating disorders, or basic nutrition information.

As a dietetic intern working with the RD here on campus, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on and participate in the counseling sessions with students.  Sometimes there are just one or two meetings a day, and other days there are half a dozen meetings with students, all with different nutritional goals.

Since many of the meetings are first-time sessions, and not follow-up sessions, there are a lot of questions that need to first be asked in order to paint a picture of the student’s area of concern.  For example, let’s say a student sets up a meeting mid-semester and complains that he has gained 10 pounds since starting school (almost the full “Freshman 15”). What are some questions that you would ask him to determine how to help him?

Here are some questions that I would ask:

  • What is your height?
  • What is your usual body weight? How long have you maintained that weight?
  • What is your current body weight?
  • How much weight have you gained in how many months?
  • Do you have a meal plan or do you shop and cook for yourself?
  • Walk me through your day, focusing on what you eat and when.
  • What beverages do you drink during the day & night?
  • Do you eat out at restaurants/fast food places?
  • How often do you eat dessert, and what type and serving size of dessert?
  • How do you think your diet differs now compared to what it was back home? (what was your typical diet like at home in high school?)
  • What was your activity level like in high school?
  • What is your activity level like now?
  • What are your weight-loss/body composition goals? Why?
  • When would you like to reach these goals by? Why?
  • How are you best motivated?

These are questions that anyone can ask themselves if they are trying to lose weight.  When you sit down and write down the answers to these questions, you are laying out all the details of what got you to where you are now.  This detailed picture now helps the dietitian and the student to see patterns and problem areas that if worked on, can be fixed. For example, maybe a student used to never eat fast food at home, but now finds themself eating at Burger King 3 times a week. Maybe the student used to be active in sports in high school, but now is sedentary due to lack of organized sports.  Perhaps a student used to eat dessert only a few times a week, but now they are unable to resist the donuts and ice cream that are available at every meal in the dining hall.  Maybe the student used to eat 3 scheduled meals a day back in high school, but now they are grazing throughout the day.

The point is, in order to fix the problem and help the student reach his weight loss goals, you need to help him identify what patterns lead to the 10 pound weight gain. Once the patterns are identified, you and the student can work on making nutrition goals that will be tailored to his individual problem areas.

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Vegetarianism 101

Vegetarian diets seem to be increasing in popularity among adolescents and adults.  People choose to adopt a vegetarian diet for many different reasons. It may be for philosophic, religious, ecologic, economic, or health reasons.  Interestingly enough, studies of Seventh Day Adventists indicate that the diet (of lacto-ovo vegetarianism) results in lower rates of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, heart disease, strokes, and gallbladder disease.

For whatever reason that a person chooses to become a vegetarian, they should be rest assured that it is still possible to meet all of their daily requirements for different minerals, vitamins, and for macronutrients like protein (which is often of most concern to people, especially parents of teen or adolescent vegetarians).  Of course, sometimes supplements will be necessary in order to make up for the decreased intake of some nutrients. This all depends on what type of vegetarian diet they’ve adopted, and I’ve listed the types below, in order from “most relaxed” to “most strict”.

Flexitarian –  This could describe anyone from the individual who occasionally eats vegetarian meals, to the individual who consumes red meat only a few times a month.

Pescatarian – does not eat meat or poultry, but does consume fish, eggs, milk, and dairy products.

Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian – does not eat meat, fish, or poultry, but does consume milk, dairy products, and eggs.

Lacto-Vegetarian – does not eat meat, fish, poultry, or eggs, but does consume milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products.

Vegan (“True Vegetarian”) – does not eat any food of animal origin (doesn’t eat eggs, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, honey,  gelatin, or carmine– the food coloring agent “natural red 4”). If someone also follows a true vegan lifestyle in addition to a vegan diet, they won’t purchase anything made from animal products either, such as leather and fur.

Nutrients to Keep an Eye On:

Like I mentioned previously, vegetarian diets of all degrees can be healthy and safe for infants, children, adolescents, and adults, with careful nutritional planning.  Key nutrients to keep an eye on include calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Vegetarian Broccoli-Tofu-Stirfry- thank the tofu for the calcium

Calcium – Vegetarians who don’t consume milk or dairy products (vegans) may have low calcium intakes. Adults ages 18-50 need 1000mg of calcium a day, which is going to be necessary for bone and teeth structure and function, muscle contraction, blood vessel function, and the proper secretion of hormones and enzymes.  While there are non-dairy products that contain calcium, the calcium found in some vegetables are inactivated by the presence of some oxalates, so a spinach salad every day may not be enough to provide that 1000 mg for optimal health, as the calcium bioavailability in spinach is low.

It’s also worth noting that there are more and more “calcium-fortified” food items on the market. In fact, the Sara Lee Classic 100% Whole Wheat sliced bread I buy has 250 mg of calcium in 2 slices of bread, or 25% DV.  Non-dairy milks such as almond, soy, and coconut milk are a great source of calcium as well (typically fortified with 25-45% DV calcium).

Vegan sources of calcium:

  • Tofu (regular, 1/2 cup) = 434 mg
  • Fortified soymilk (1 cup) = 368 mg
  • Collard greens (cooked, 1 cup) = 357 mg
  • Turnip greens (cooked, 1 cup) = 249 mg
  • Rhubarb (cooked, 1 cup) = 212 mg
  • Black-eyed peas (boiled, 1 cup) = 211 mg
  • Spinach (cooked, 1 cup) = 200 mg
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice (1 cup) = 200 mg
  • Blackstrap molasses (1 tbs) = 172 mg
  • Baked beans (canned, 1 cup) = 154 mg
  • Refried beans (canned, 1 cup) = 141 mg
  • Kale (cooked, 1 cup) = 94 mg
  • Almonds (1 oz) = 70 mg

Iron-fortified cereal with vitamin C containing orange juice

Iron – Iron plays an essential role in transporting oxygen in your blood from your lungs to the rest of your body.  There are two types of iron- heme iron found in animal products and non-heme iron found in plant products.  Heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body than nonheme iron, so vegetarians have a dietary reference intake (DRI) for iron about 1.8 times higher than do non-vegetarians.  Vegetarian men and vegetarian post-menopausal women should aim for 14 mg a day and pre-menopausal vegetarian women should aim for 33 mg of iron per day.

There are mixed messages when it comes to the intake of iron in vegetarian diets versus non vegetarian diets. Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy textbook says that vegetarian diets tend to be lower in iron intake than diets of those who consume meat and animal products, however the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nutrition Care Manual says that vegetarians consume more dietary iron than nonvegetarians.  Despite this inconsistency, it is known that the incidence of iron deficiency anemia is similar in both vegetarians and non vegetarians.

While the iron found in plant products and fortified grains (nonheme iron) is less readily absorbed by the body, it is also typically accompanied by the intake of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which increases the bioavailability of the iron.  For this reason, it’s recommended that vegetarians eat foods containing vitamin C along with iron-containing foods.  Vegetarians can also increase the amount of iron in your foods by cooking foods in cast iron skillets, as some of the iron will absorb into the foods, especially acidic foods like tomato sauce.

Vegan sources of iron:

  • Fortified cereal (1 cup) = 1-22 mg
  • Enriched white rice (1 cup) 9.73 mg
  • Pumpkin & Squash seeds (1/4 cup) = 8.5 mg
  • Baked beans (1 cup) = 8.2 mg
  • Spinach, cooked (1 cup) = 6.43 mg
  • Enriched bagel (4″) = 5.38 mg
  • Refried beans (1 cup) = 4.18 mg
  • Potato skin (from 1 potato) = 4.08 mg

Wild rice, good source of zinc

Zinc – Zinc is a mineral that has many functions; it’s involved in the synthesis and degradation of major metabolites and nucleic acids, structure of proteins, intracelluar signals in the brain, transport processes, immune function, and expression of genetic information. Phew! The dietary reference intake (DRI) for zinc is 11 mg/day for males and 8 mg/day for females. However, like iron, animal sources of zinc have higher bioavailability than plant (legume, grain) sources because of the phytates that inhibit zinc absorption. Because of this, vegetarians consuming high levels of phytates are recommended to consume 50% more than the RDA.

Zinc is another mineral that is mainly found in animal products, so vegans and vegetarians need to keep an eye on their zinc intake, as a zinc deficiency can lead to delayed wound healing, skin lesions, impaired appetite and taste, and immune deficiencies. There’s good news though– many breakfast cereals and breads are fortified with zinc, and soy products may also be good sources of zinc.  In fact, a quick peak in my pantry shows me that store-brand rice krispie cereal has 25% DV of zinc. Great!

Vegan sources of zinc:

  • Wild rice, cooked ( 1/2 cup) = 2.2 mg
  • Pecans (1 oz) = 1.28 mg
  • Green peas, cooked (1 cup) = 1.21 mg
  • Legumes (1/2 cup) = 0.8-1.3 mg
  • Peanuts, dry roasted (1 0z) = 0.94 mg
  • Spinach, frozen/cooked (1 cup) = 0.93 mg
  • Bread, whole wheat (1 slice) = 0.54 mg

Nutritional yeast- it’s got your B12!

Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that red blood cell growth and maintenance of the nervous system.  However, Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in meat, eggs, and dairy.  Vegans are at higher risk of developing megaloblastic anemia due to a Vitamin B12 deficiency.  This could mean shortness of breath, tingling and numbness in fingers and toes, memory loss, dizziness, mood changes, loss of vision, impaired cell division, and permanent nerve damage.  Another layer of complication is added to this as well, because the high levels of folate in vegan diets mask the damage done by a vitamin B12 deficiency. For this reason, vegans should get tested for a vitamin B12 deficiency by their doctor as well as make sure they have a consistent, reliable source of B12, such as fortified breakfast cereals, soy milk products, or supplements. Aim for 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day – or 100% RDA.  Check your food labels and look into supplementation if your intake of Vitamin B12 is low.

Vegan sources of vitamin B12:

  • Nutritional yeast (1 tbs) = 5.3 mcg
  • Soy milk products (1 cup) = 0.9-3.3 mcg
  • Meat analogs (1 oz) = 0.5-1.2 mcg –> this is going to be your veggie burgers, fake meats, textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Ready-to-eat cereals (1 cup) = 0.6-6.0 mcg

Fortified soymilk- excellent source of vitamin D

Vitamin D – Vitamin D is a prohormone which is essential for normal growth and development, especially key in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.  Vitamin D is synthesized by our skin when exposed to sunlight, however for those that spend most of their day indoors or those who live in cloudy areas of northern latitude, supplementation of Vitamin D through the diet may be necessary. The RDA for adults is 5-15 mcg per day.

Vitamin D is found naturally in fish, cow’s milk, eggs, and liver. Not very vegan. Fortunately, as the benefits of vitamin D continue to reach headlines, there is a growing amount of food that is being fortified with vitamin D and being advertised as such.

Vegan sources of vitamin D:

  • Soy or rice milk (1 cup) = 1-3 mcg
  • Orange juice (1 cup) = 2.5 mcg
  • Margarine (1 tsp) = 1.5 mcg
  • Ready-to-eat cereal (1 oz) = 0.5-1 mcg

If your doctor recommends you take a vitamin D supplement, you’ll probably want to go with Vitamin D2 instead of Vitamin D3 supplements, as D3 is made from animal skin and D2 is made from yeast. However, D2 is not utilized as effectively as D3 in the body, so vegans relying on vitamin D2 may need to consume 1.7x the RDI, or 25.5 mcg per day.

Flax seeds & ground flax seeds- great for omega-3s

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3s are fatty acids that are required in the human diet, as the human body has no way of synthesizing omega 3-s internally.  Essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6)  have numerous functions in the body and the health benefits of omega-3s are even more numerous. Omega 3s can help with inflammatory diseases, decrease the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower elevated triglyceride levels, reduce the inflammation involved in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and improve symptoms of depression and dementia.  Adequate intakes for omega-3 fatty acids in adults are 1.6 g/day for males and 1.1 g/day for females.

Omega-3s are plentiful in fatty fish and shellfish, but vegans have to find alternative sources.

Vegan sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  • Flaxseed/flaxseed oil (one of the best options for vegans)
  • Vegetable oils–canola, soybean, olive, hemp (1 tbs) = 0.9-1.2 g
  • English walnuts (1/4 cup) = 2.3-2.7 g
  • Soybeans, cooked (1 cup) = 1 g
  • Pumpkin seeds

Vegetarian black bean chili…full of protein

But what about protein??

Chances are, if a vegetarian eats fish, eggs, milk, or dairy, they can easily get enough protein in their diet each day. In fact, although they consume less protein than their non-vegetarian counterparts, most vegetarians still meet or exceed their protein requirements each day (generally 0.8 g protein/kg body weight). So it’s really not a problem for most vegetarians, especially if they eat yogurt, cheese, milk, fish, and eggs.  In addition, when vegetarian diets are found to be low in protein, it’s typically because the calories are too low as well. All they have to do is increase the calories eaten each day and the protein intake will raise to meet requirements.

Vegans, on the other hand, consume most of their protein from bean and fortified cereal sources. The fiber and polyphenic compounds found in these can affect protein digestibility, so often their protein needs increase to 1.0 g protein/kg bodyweight.  This still doesn’t warrant much cause for concern as well, as long as the calorie needs of the individual are being met.

Vegan sources of protein:

  • Legumes
  • Soy products
  • Grains
  • Nuts/nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, hazelnut spread)
  • Seeds/seed butters
  • Meat analogs (TVP, fake meat, veggie burgers, etc)

So there you go! Vegetarianism in a (large) nutshell.  The important thing to remember here is that if you switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re still eating healthy. There’s a lot of vegan and vegetarian junk food out there, so you still need to be aware of how much of what you’re putting in your body.  Typically 10-15% of your calories from protein, 45-65% calories from carbohydrates, and 20-30% calories from fat.  In addition to keeping an eye on your macronutrient composition, you’ll want to keep an eye on your calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and omega-3 daily intake. You may be able to reach your daily recommendations for all of these vitamins and minerals through a carefully and consciously planned diet, but oftentimes you might need to speak to a health professional concerning supplement use.

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