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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle
apples 1

Autumn = Apples

Autumn is on its way. Not just a change in the weather, but time for new seasonal food choices. Did apples come to mind?

We may not think of apples as seasonal since we find them in stores year-round and since they are the second most consumed fruit among Americans (Iowa State University, 2013). Since they are in-season around this time of year, this is a great opportunity to discuss this versatile fruit.


One medium fresh apple (about 3 inches in diameter) contains around 100 calories, 25g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, and is a source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, and folate. Like many fresh fruits, apples are an insignificant source of fat and sodium.

The best quality apples will appear during autumn months, although apples can be found all year round. If fresh apples do not look as good, consider applesauce or dried apple slices. While less common, you may be able to find frozen apple pieces.

  • Buy: Look for fresh apples that are firm and feel heavy for their size. Avoid apples with insect damage, wrinkling, bruising, or signs of decomposition. If choosing applesauce, choose unsweetened varieties. If choosing dried or frozen apples, look for varieties without added sugar. For apple juice, look for 100% juice rather than apple juice drinks or juice cocktails.
  • Price: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on average, fresh apples cost around $0.30 per cup, making them a very economical fruit. Applesauce is around $0.50 per cup; apple juice is around $0.30 per cup. Besides stores, find local orchards in your area to pick your own apples and support local farmers.
  • Store: For longest shelf life, store apples in the refrigerator for several weeks. At room temperature, apples ripen faster and you need to eat them quickly before they begin to rot. Ethylene gas produced by apples and other produce helps in ripening, but can affect the quality of other nearby produce. When possible, store ethylene-producing fruits and veggies away from those that are sensitive to ethylene. For a list of ethylene-producing produce, see this handout from University of Minnesota Extension.
  • Prepare: Wash fresh apples before eating or using in recipes. Cut away insect damage or bruising. A paring knife is useful in peeling apples, but requires practice to avoid losing too much apple with the peel. A vegetable peeler is another option and is easy to use for most people.

Cut apples will begin to turn brown as part of enzymatic oxidation. To limit browning, treat apples to minimize air exposure. This may be done by dipping in lemon juice, storing in water until ready to use, or packing in vitamin C solution or sugar syrups.

For information on this treatment, see WEB RESOURCE 1 from the University of Illinois Extension. For information on canning, freezing, and drying apples, see WEB RESOURCE 2 from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

  • Eat: Very versatile, apples can simply be eaten whole, sliced and spread with nut butter (a favorite snack of this author), cooked into sweet and savory side and main dishes, and included in baked goods, both as diced apples and applesauce. Fruit purees like applesauce can replace up to half of fat in baked goods, such as quick breads and muffins. Try it!

Reference: Ag Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University, Geisler M., Commodity Apple Profile, 2013.
Reference: Individualized Situation-based Nutrition Counseling, University of Minnesota Extension, Fueling Fast Lesson, Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetable
Reference: US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

The sweetness of apples is a perfect complement to savory ingredients, so try apples in multiple dishes, including this soup that will warm you up in the cool autumn weather to come.

Apple-Parsnip Soup (serves 6)

This light side dish soup pairs well with any cut of pork. Round out the meal with whole-grain rolls to dunk in the soup and roasted Brussels sprouts.

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
4 cups peeled chopped parsnips
2 cups cored and chopped apples (remove peel if desired)
4 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp ground cinnamon or cardamom
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup half-and-half or 2% milk

1. Heat oil in large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger; stir frequently and cook 5 minutes or until onion turns translucent and is tender.
2. Add parsnips and apples; stir frequently and cook about 5 minutes. Add broth, cinnamon, and black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook 20-30 minutes or until parsnips are tender.
3. With a stick blender, carefully blend soup until smooth. Or, add part of parsnip mixture to a blender and process until smooth. Repeat with remaining mixture until all of soup is smooth and return to stockpot. Stir in half-and-half until combined. Continue heating 2-3 minutes without letting soup boil, or cream may curdle, until soup is steaming.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 140 calories, 4g fat, 310mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 2g protein

WEB HIGHLIGHT: From trivia to recipes to food preservation tips, learn more about apples through University of Illinois Extension website "Apples and More."

WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: Want to save extra apples? Learn more about preserving them at the National Center for Home Food Preservation through the University of Georgia.

TRIVIA HIGHLIGHT: As of 2007, Illinois' state fruit is the GoldRush apple.

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