The late summer and fall is high season for apples. Just in time for this year’s crop, here’s USConnect’s list of what to look for when comparing apples to apples.
When it comes to sweet apples, most people look no further than Red Delicious or Golden Delicious. The Red Delicious, in particular, is widely available year-round and is an especially popular choice for the lunchbox. Although these apples share a name and a sweet flavor, they are not actually related. The Golden Delicious, in fact, is particularly prone to bruising and should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten quickly. The Red Delicious has a longer shelf life, but it will become mealy over time. The deep red skin of the Red Delicious has the highest concentration of disease-fighting polyphenols, so it’s a healthy choice.
For a tart taste, the clear choice is the iconic Granny Smith apple. Discovered accidentally by an Australian farmer in 1868, Granny Smith apples are known for their bright “apple green” skin, tart taste, and extremely crisp (even hard) texture. Granny Smith apples keep for a long time, so they are a good choice if you want to keep healthy snacks on hand. However, their green skin has the fewest polyphenols. Their tart flavor is a great complement to salads or cheese.
What many people love about apples is their crisp texture. For ultimate crispness, fresher is always better. This time of year, fresh apples are available at farm stands and orchards, many of which allow you to pick your own. If fresh-picked isn’t an option, try a Gala; these popular apples have the sweetness of Red Delicious but with less tendency to mealiness. Braeburn and Fuji apples are also known for their crispness.
Want a sweet-tart taste with a crisp-mouth feel? The Honeycrisp is the apple for you. Cultivated by the University of Minnesota and released in 1991, the Honeycrisp has quickly skyrocketed in popularity due to its long shelf life, sweet and tart flavor, juiciness, and firm texture. Although everyone has their own favorites, the Honeycrisp lands at number one on a lot of people’s lists.
What are the best foods to eat in the winter?
As January turns to February, New Year’s resolutions fade into distant memories. The weather is cold and grey, and snow and ice make outdoor exercise unsafe or just unpalatable. Above all, our bodies crave comfort: fleece pajamas, wool sweaters, and comforting food. Carmen Honnef, USConnect’s own Registered Dietician and manager of our The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™ program, says: “Cold weather may tend to lead us towards comfort foods like pasta, pizza and casseroles. Enjoy these dishes by using whole grains, adding vegetables to casseroles, and limiting the saturated fat sources (like cheese and sausage) to half the amount or a lighter option.”
Cold weather drives us to food that’s hot, quick, and filling, like canned soup or fast food. We also tend to crave carbohydrates, an issue that isn’t purely psychological; the reduced sunlight in winter can lead to lower serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally-occurring chemical that regulates moods and suppresses appetite. When our bodies need serotonin, what we feel is cravings for sweet or starchy carbohydrates.
Despite the fact that our bodies seem to want to fight our ability to eat healthily during the winter, there are some ways to get your body what it needs without sacrificing your diet. Read on for our dietician-certified tips for healthy eating in cold weather.
- Replace simple carbohydrates with complex ones. Instead of saltines or cookies, go for whole grains like quinoa, farro, or barley. These foods can boost serotonin without causing sleepiness or carb-overload.
- Get some sun. If the weather permits, get outside for at least 15 minutes a day. A brisk walk is good for both your body and your brain! Moving your desk to a sunny spot can also help.
- Eat for immunity. Winter vegetables like squash and Brussels sprouts are packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants. They’re also more filling that some summer vegetables like asparagus or green beans.
- Go for frozen. If you’re craving out-of-season fruits or vegetables, go for frozen instead of canned. The canning process can sacrifice many of the nutrients of fresh produce, while flash-frozen produce maintains its properties. Many canned vegetables and fruits also contain unneeded sugar or salt.
- Add some warmth to your salad. Many people avoid salads in the winter because they want something warm to counteract the cold weather. But salads and warmth do not need to be enemies; try topping your salad with something warm to counteract the chill of cold greens. As we discuss in our post on food pairings, an egg on a salad of dark greens provides extra nutritional benefits, or try grilled chicken, lean steak, or shrimp.