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Pick Me a Winner

Posted 7/12/2017 by UHBlog

Overwhelmed by all the colorful produce at the market? Ask us how to incorporate them into an overall healthy diet.

Pick Me a Winner

Women need one-and-a-half cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables each day for optimal health, while men require two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables. That’s not very much when you think about it – maybe a handful of berries on your breakfast cereal, an apple for an afternoon snack, some baby carrots with a midday sandwich, and a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower with dinner.

Still, many American adults can’t seem to incorporate fruits and veggies into their diets. In some cases, it may be because they don’t know how to select fresh varieties at the market, says registered/licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator Jan Friswold.

Friswold offers these eight tips for picking winning produce:

  1. When possible, select a farmers market over a large chain store.

    “Farmers markets help bring locally grown produce closer to the consumer, which leaves less of a carbon footprint,” she says. “Fruit is fresher, and fresh fruit has more nutrients and a better taste because it’s not coming across the continent under refrigeration.”

    Because products are not shrink-wrapped, you can pick the exact apples, tomatoes or zucchinis you want in a quantity that makes sense for your needs.

  2. Opt for produce that is firm, vibrantly colored, unwrinkled and unbruised and that doesn’t smell rancid.

  3. Choose a rainbow of colors for maximum nutrition. For example, buy red tomatoes and strawberries, green cucumbers and spinach, purple grapes and eggplant, yellow squash and bell peppers, and orange carrots and sweet potatoes.

  4. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Farmers markets typically offer a wider variety than traditional supermarkets do, so you can find several types of garlic, herbs or greens. Often the vendor is also the grower and is happy to share storage and cooking tips.

  5. Stock up on sales and in-season produce, such as summer peaches and heirloom tomatoes. Many fruits, vegetables and herbs can be preserved for enjoyment in the winter by:

    • Freezing. Friswold recommends blanching first.

      “Boil them for just a minute or two to stop the enzymes from further ripening the fruit or vegetable,” she says. “That way, they will freeze better and you will have a better-tasting product when you thaw it later.”

      Freeze herbs in ice-cube trays filled with olive oil. Freeze overripe fruit in plastic storage bags. When Friswold wants a smoothie, she whirs frozen fruit with leftover veggies (even cooked broccoli) in a blender until frothy. She says the sweetness of the fruit masks the taste of the vegetables.

    • Canning. “This makes a great gift,” she says.

    • Drying. Fruit can be dried in a dehydrator (available at many housewares stores), and herbs can be dried in the microwave.

  6. Unless you plan on preserving, only buy what you can consume in the next few days. You may get a great price on a peck of peaches, but it will end up being a waste of money if the fruit rots before you can eat it.
  7. Go straight home after shopping. Produce will begin rotting if left in a hot car.

  8. Once home, store items properly to maximize their shelf life. Most produce tastes best within two or three days of harvesting.

    “Lots of people don’t buy fruit because it spoils before they can eat it,” Friswold says. “If you keep it in the refrigerator, it will last a little longer than if you keep it at room temperature.”

    However, tomatoes can be stored at room temperature for two to three days and onions and potatoes can stay out (but not together) for 10 to 12 weeks. Once bananas ripen, they should be refrigerated to extend their shelf life. Citrus fruit can be left at room temperature for a week but will last for up to two months when refrigerated.

Jan Friswold, RDN, LD, CDE, is a registered/licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Friswold or any other health care professional online.

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