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Summer 2014 - Taste of the Garden - Blueberries

This section of Families First is usually dedicated to helping you try something new that you can grow in your own backyard and experiment with in your kitchen. Since it’s summertime, we are taking a little vacation from suggesting a specific item to grow in your own garden. Instead, we encourage families to get out to local farms and markets to enjoy the amazing berries of the season!

Your plates should be bursting with color all year long, and fresh blueberries are a great summer addition. Mix them into your diet in creative ways. They may be tiny, but they are packed full of nutrients! “When berries are in season, you can get the most flavorful ones because they aren’t harvested until they are truly ready,” said Stacy Kropp, clinical dietitian at WakeMed Raleigh Campus. “That’s when the nutrients will be at their peak!”

Pick Plenty!

Families can get the freshest blueberries around by planning a farm outing to a pick-your-own spot. “This is a great way for kids to see exactly where berries grow,” said Kropp. “It’s a great way to intrigue their interest in a very healthy snack option.”

You can always freeze berries so you have a supply after the summer. “The nutrient data doesn’t change dramatically if used within a few months,” said Kropp. “Wash them first and then freeze them in serving sizes to use for smoothies or other berry recipes.”

Wait & Wash

As tempting as it is to eat those blueberries right off the bush, it’s best to wash all berries thoroughly to remove pesticides and other environmental elements. “There’s a lot that’s unknown about what is being used or how it will affect the body,” said Kropp.

Use cool water and agitation. Spin them dry or let them air dry if you are planning to preserve them. Blackberries and raspberries can be more difficult to get really clean so take extra caution with those. Rinse and measure the berries together with your kids. They love to get involved! You can talk about creative kitchen creations while you work together.

Berries Beyond Season

Your family can keep eating berries even when they are not in season. “Opt for frozen berries instead of canned because they tend to be harvested later and will be more nutritious,” said Kropp. “The canning process for fruits can kill or reduce some of the nutrients, and many canned fruits are preserved in a sugary sauce.”

You should be able to easily find frozen fruits without added ingredients. Kropp recommends checking the label.

Blueberry Benefits

Low Fat and High Fiber - blackberries and raspberries are the highest

Vitamin C - helps with healthy skin, the immune system and plays a role in a lot of different things our bodies need

Rich in Antioxidants + phytonutrients - a good source of anti-inflammatory properties

Source of Manganese - helps with bone development and metabolism to help people convert their food to energy

Mix in Your Berries

  • Add to salads (try in place of dressing)
  • Make a healthy dessert
  • Toss in as a side dish
  • Offer a bowl of berries instead of chips
  • Pack them for a trail snack
  • Blend with other fruits
  • Layer various colors of berries in a glass dish
  • Make them easily available by prepping in advance
  • Experiment with fruit pop flavors – limit added sugar
  • Add a touch of mint to a berry salad
  • Sprinkle citrus on top instead of sugar

Berry Parfait

Makes: 4 servings

4 cups non-fat or low-fat plain or vanilla Greek yogurt

4 cups blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or other fruit, fresh or frozen and thawed

4 tbsp. granola or roasted chopped nuts (optional)

  • In tall glasses, alternate layers of yogurt with fruit, using 1 cup of each per serving.
  • Sprinkle granola or chopped nuts on top.
ff Summer 2014 - Blueberries

Be Berry Aware

Get to Know Your Grower - Ask what pest control methods they use. Whenever possible, opt for local and organic berries. Local berries will be left to ripen longer and truly develop all their sweetness and nutrients. “Taste truly does translate to nutritional benefits,” said Kropp.

Allergy Alert! - Some people can develop allergies or an intolerance to certain foods, and berries are no exception. Reactions are individualized and should be investigated. If nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing or confusion occurs, seek immediate attention. It could be anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.

Risk of Choking - Although frozen blueberries can be a tasty treat for year-round snacking, they can be a choking risk depending on the age of the child. “Even children who are able to fully chew their foods should have snack time while seated and under adult supervision.”




ff Summer 2014 - Blueberries Drink

Blueberry Cucumber Smoothie

Makes: 2 servings

Adapted from Joy the Baker at

1 ½ cups frozen or fresh blueberries, strawberries, blackberries or other fruit

1 cup cold almond milk

Half of an English cucumber, deseeded and chopped into large chunks

1-2 tbsp. honey (optional)

Squeeze of lemon (optional)

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend.
  • Add almond milk as necessary to desired consistency.

Serving Size Suggestion:
Half a cup is a good serving size of blueberries; a cup is good for larger berries



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