EFNEP Highlights Watermelon

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The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) highlights watermelon. Why would a nutritional program highlight watermelon; because it is a delicious nutritional part of a healthy diet and North Carolina watermelons are ready to eat now. Watermelons are commercially grown in 44 different states in the United States, North Carolina being one of them. Did you know that the USDA developed the classic variety, called Charleston Grey in 1954. There are dozens of varieties of watermelon in many sizes that are available in local farmers markets, roadside stands and grocery stores near you.

watermelon slices

How does a watermelon fit into the MyPlate food plan? Most of us need between 1 ½ cups to 2 cups of fruit per day and eating just 1 medium watermelon wedge reaches your fruit goal for the day. MyPlate also recommends that we focus on whole fruits for the added fiber they provide. There is nothing more hydrating and better tasting than to eat a wedge of cool crisp watermelon.

What are the benefits of including watermelon as a part of your healthy diet? Watermelon is a disease fighter. Watermelon has more lycopene than any other red fresh fruit or vegetable. Lycopene is an antioxidant linked to decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye disorders. One cup of watermelon has around 46 calories, no fat or sodium, and 12 grams of energy producing carbohydrates. It is a great source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A. 

When choosing a watermelon, look for one that is firm and heavy for its size. There should be a yellow spot on the underside as the result of sitting on the ground and ripening in the sun. If the spot is very pale or white, it may have been picked too soon and will not be ripe. 

watermelon slice and watermelon juice

There are many interesting ways to use watermelon. Have you ever tried to grill it? Grilling around 2 minutes per side gives it a little smoky extra sweet taste. Watermelon is a great fruit to add to smoothies. A recipe for a no sugar added strawberry watermelon slushy is to take 3 cups of frozen strawberries, 3 cups fresh watermelon, 1 banana; then blend together. 

Try making zesty watermelon popsicles by blending up watermelon with a little  lime juice, pour into small cups with a popsicle stick and freeze. Watermelon is refreshing when added to lemonade and since watermelon is so sweet you can reduce the amount of sugar you add to your lemonade recipe. Try using watermelon in a salad sprinkled with feta cheese for that sweet/salty combination that we love so much. Making pickles out of the rind is a very old tradition and those recipes are still available especially in your locally produced cookbooks. Enjoy adding delicious nutritious watermelon to your diet this summer. To join EFNEP cooking classes and learn ways to prepare healthy and tasty recipes for your family for less money and in less time, please contact Rhonda Church, EFNEP Educator at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Ashe Center at 336-846-5850.