FRUITS and VEGETABLES: A healthy part of your diet

By: Lisa Zook, Dietitian 

Looking to improve your diet this Spring?  Eating a varied diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, is one of the keys to good health. However, to stay healthy, it’s equally important to makes sure the produce you consume is safe to eat. One way to do that is to make sure any fruits or vegetables you use have been washed well before you peel, cut, eat, or cook with them. Pesticides can also be reduced by washing fruits and vegetables properly.

How Fruits and Vegetables Become Contaminated

Although most people understand that meat products such as chicken need to be properly handled to prevent food-borne illnesses, some do not realize that fruits and vegetables may also cause illness if not handled and stored properly. In fact, in recent years, contaminated fruits and vegetables have been the culprit in several large outbreaks of food-borne illness. That is because they are eaten in the raw state at most times. Some of the ways fruits and vegetables can become contaminated include:

  • Harmful substances present in the soil or water during growing
  • Poor hygiene among workers during harvest, packing, and transporting
  • Pesticide use during growing to prevent plant disease and pest infestation

The following fruits and vegetables have been found to have larger amounts of pesticides:

  • Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes. They have levels within the USDA limits but should be washed carefully before eating to make them safer to eat.

How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables

  • Start by choosing produce that’s free of bruises, mold, or other signs of damage. If you are purchasing precut items, make sure they have been refrigerated or displayed on ice at the supermarket.
  • Once home, store perishable fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator (at 40 degrees F or below) until you’re ready to use them. Always store precut fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, too.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling fresh produce.
  • Use a sharp paring knife to cut away any damaged or bruised areas of the fruit or vegetable.
  • Wash the produce before you peel it. That way, contaminants will not be transferred from your knife to the fruit or vegetable.
  • Hold the fruit or vegetable under cool running tap water, gently rubbing it as you rinse it.
  • For firm produce, such as melons and winter squash, use a clean vegetable brush to scrub the surface as you rinse it. Do not brush too hard.
  • Produce with bumpy, uneven surfaces, such as cauliflower and broccoli, should be soaked for 1 to 2 minutes in cold water to remove contaminants, soil and bugs from the nooks and crannies.
  • Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry the produce before using it.

How to Wash Salad Greens

Salad greens require special attention. First, discard the wilted outer leaves; then prep and wash greens as directed for each type. 

  • For leafy lettuces, such as green or red-tip leaf, butter head, and romaine as well as endive, remove and discard the root end. Separate leaves and hold them under cold running water to remove any dirt.
  • For smaller greens, such as spinach and arugula, swirl them in a bowl or a clean sink filled with cold water about 30 seconds. Remove the leaves and shake gently to let dirt and other debris fall into the water. Repeat the process if necessary. Drain in a colander.
  • For iceberg lettuce, remove the core by hitting the stem end on the countertop; twist and lift out the core. Hold the head, core side up under cold running water, pulling leaves apart slightly. Invert the head and drain thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.
  • For mesclun (a mixture of young, small salad greens often available in bulk at farmers markets), rinse in a colander or the basket of a salad spinner.

  Other Tips for Washing Fruits and Vegetables

  • Do not use soap or detergents when washing produce.
  • You need not seek out a special produce wash to clean fruits and vegetables. Cool, clean, running tap water is fine. Studies have shown that tap water is effective as vegetable sprays and vinegar or lemon water.
  • Wash all produce before using, even if you are going to peel it including bananas. Any dirt and bacteria on the outside of unwashed produce can be transferred from the knife into the fruit or vegetable.

Tip: Even organic fruits and vegetables, as well as produce from your own garden or local farmer’s markets, should be washed well.

Out With The Old In With The New: Renewing Our Minds In 2017

By: Danny Parsons, Sprenger Hospice Care

Out with the old in with the new… Wouldn’t it be so nice if it was that easy? Our bodies and minds have endured a great deal over the years.  Today I would encourage you to rest assure that all is not lost. Newness is in our grasps if we choose to embrace it.

How can we experience a new us? No, I am not talking about surgery or some fad diet, but a renewing of our minds is what I have found to be the key. Ask yourself today; what it is that has been consuming most of your thoughts? It is normal to be concerned about something, but sometimes we can let it consume us. So many of us stress and worry about things we have little or no control over.

A renewing of our minds is not us simply pretending something isn’t taking place or that our current circumstances aren’t real. A renewing of the mind is getting our focus back to where it needs to be.

This New Year, let’s make it a point to focus more on the many things we can control and work on ways to make those changes happen.

We need to focus on the present and everything we still have available to us. So often we ponder on all the negatives in life, which could bring anyone down. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is plenty positives in our lives and many things to be grateful for.  

Renewing one’s mind is thinking that even though things might not be perfect, we still give our very best. We understand mistakes will be made, but we chose to learn from them and continue on life’s journey. Developing an attitude of gratitude will go a long way in this New Year.

I am reminded of the story of the little train that thought he could. It wasn’t something he did all at once. Inch by inch, little by little, he made his way up that steep hill. So will we if we don’t give up. That mountain that stands before us might seem impossible today but no one is saying you have to reach the top overnight. The excitement is found in the journey of the climb. Enjoy each new experience that comes your way; embrace the challenges that arise from time to time. Know that you can do it and reach down deep and find that inner strength that lies within; where our mind goes the body will follow.

We’re Looking for a Holiday Star!

We’re looking for a HOLIDAY STAR!

Give back in the spirit of the season and WIN!

Sprenger Healthcare is holding a company-wide competition between facilities and individuals! We want to see you get into the spirit of the holiday and new year by giving back to your community! The facility and individual with the most memorable holiday deed will be rewarded! Work together and on your own.

Contest will run Dec. 9th thru Jan. 31st

Chosen facility wins a catered lunch/dinner for all staff! Individual winner gets a $100 gift card AND $100 donated to a charity of choice!

Winners will also be featured on the Sprenger website and a press release will go out to local newspapers!

What can you do?

  • Fundraise for a cause
  • Volunteer your time
  • “Adopt” a family or child in need
  • Participate in a fundraising event
  • Collect canned foods, coats, toys or other items
Add Volunteering to Your New Year’s Resolutions

Each year, many of us set New Year’s resolutions to achieve new opportunities and goals. For some of us, it’s to start going to the gym, eating healthy, or getting a promotion. One great resolution to consider, which can be beneficial to you and  your community, is volunteering.

Volunteering is a wonderful and fulfilling activity. Whether it is cooking meals at a local shelter, caring for dogs and cats at an animal shelter, or doing something as simple as shoveling a neighbor’s driveway. Volunteering can do so much good for you and the community.

Sprenger Healthcare has many opportunities for one to volunteer across multiple facilities. Some great examples of volunteering are reading books and newspapers to residents, assisting in fundraising, and even just keeping residents company.

Volunteering is not only beneficial for the people you’re caring for, but it’s also for the volunteers too. One of the best reasons to volunteer is to learn from our experienced residents. Our residents have a wide variety of knowledge and insightfulness that they can share with you.

You can meet peers and make new friends when you volunteer. When you volunteer at Sprenger Health Care Systems and help care for residents, you work with like-minded people. When you work together it’s easy to bond with fellow volunteers, employees, and members of the community to create new relationships and connections within the healthcare industry.

Volunteering is a selfless way to feel good about yourself, step back from your hectic life, and help enrich the lives of others. It’s a wonderful feeling to bring a smile or a bit of laughter to someone you just met.

If you are interested in volunteering at any of our Sprenger Health Care communities, please contact us through the website or by calling the facility you’re interested in and ask for the Life Enrichment Director. To volunteer for Sprenger Hospice Care, please contact Toni Rotz, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, at

No matter your New Year’s resolutions, we hope you have a happy 2017!

Healthy Initiatives to Prevent Hearing loss & Diabetes

By: Renea Dutton, PT

The Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion develops initiatives and goals every decade to promote consumer wellness.  The 2020 initiative includes several targets, including being preventative services to help seek and identify illness at earlier stages or further prevent the illness from occurring.

Unfortunately, as illnesses progress so does the risk of co-morbid conditions.  With increased research, our understanding of the clear link between the primary disorder and potential secondary disorders can lead to a better diagnosis and treatment of subsequent conditions.

With advancing research, there is a growing awareness of a link between Type 2 diabetes and hearing loss, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).  The article “Hearing Loss & Diabetes” by Marilyn Enock ( indicates that 2% of adults aged 45 to 54 have a hearing loss disability, which steadily increases with age to nearly 25% of adults aged 65 to 74, and to half of those aged 75 years or older.  Individuals with diabetes were found to be twice as likely to develop hearing loss, which is thought to be related to a chemical change caused by elevated blood sugar levels.  The chemical change affects the nervous system’s ability to send typical sound signals to the brain, resulting in affected hearing.

Presbycusis is the type of hearing loss most commonly diagnosed in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.  This type of hearing loss is typically slow to progress and predominantly affects the individual’s ability to hear higher pitched sounds including a phone ringing or the voice of a female conversation partner.  Consequently, hearing loss can be a risk factor for social isolation and loneliness leading to a feeling of “missing out” on social gatherings or conversations.   

Fortunately, both risk of diabetes and hearing loss can be screened or tested relatively quickly.  Individuals with diabetes should consider consulting their physician to determine if a routine hearing screening or testing would be an appropriate healthy initiative in order to prevent hearing loss.