Fruit and Veggies Year Round

February 02, 2011

How to fill your plate with fruits and veggies in the middle of winter? Head to the frozen and canned aisles with these must read tips.

With the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and their strong emphasis on filling half your plate with fruits and veggies, SupermarketGuru wanted to remind you of some thrifty ways of filling up on nature’s bounty. With most of the country under a layer of snow and the continued increase in food prices, it’s time to be sure you’re shopping smart- choosing seasonal produce as well as focusing on frozen and canned options. Both of these choices will not only save you money but will be the most nutrient dense, one of the main focuses of the 2010 Guidelines.

This time of year the options in fresh produce are limited, for specifics in your region ask your produce manager. Generally winter vegetables and fruits include, rood vegetables such as: parsnips, rutabagas, potatoes, beets, citrus fruits like blood oranges, kumquats, and clementines. Winter is also the time for Brussels sprouts and jicama.

Winters’ abundance is limited so let’s head to the frozen and canned aisles. Using canned vegetables and beans in soups and stews provides the similar nutritional value as the fresh ingredients; because canned foods already are cooked, they require only minimal further cooking time. Research has demonstrated that once processed, little additional loss of nutrients occurs in subsequent cooking steps. Therefore, using canned foods in casseroles, soups and stews saves preparation and cooking time, as well as energy, while providing the same nutritional value as fresh foods.

When shopping for canned vegetables, it’s important to:
Be critical of the integrity of the can. Do not buy dented or slightly bulging cans as this can be a sign the product inside is compromised.

Be sure to read the nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists. Check to be sure there are no added ingredients like salt or sugar.

Don’t assume economy-sized cans are a bargain. Oftentimes, traditional 8-ounce cans are the real deal since producers use those in volume. To be sure compare the unit cost versus the cost per can.

Fruits may have sugar or syrup added to enhance flavor and maintain texture, so caloric value is increased. So be sure to read the ingredient list for added sugars.

Salt (sodium chloride) is added to some vegetables, beans, meats and mixed foods (such as soup) in part because consumer testing has shown the taste of salt is important to most people, so it is routinely added. If reducing sodium intake is a health concern, many manufacturers have low-sodium alternatives. Also canned vegetables and fruit can be rinsed to remove excess sodium on the surface or in the canning liquid.

Finally read the label for more than just ingredients. Check the country of origin so you can understand the locale of the product inside. Also be sure to check for expiration dates.

The same rules apply for frozen fruits and veggies. You should be able to find all of your favorite items in the freezer section of your local grocer. Compare labels and read ingredient lists. Frozen fruits and veggies should have no additives- as they are flash frozen at their peak freshness and thus do not need any additional ingredients.