Healthy Vegetable Choices

Articles
November 09, 2010

Healthy Vegetable Choices

As food prices climb and the first cold snaps of winter hit the country, it’s time to be sure you’re shopping for what’s in season or focusing on frozen and canned options to save money.

As food prices climb and the first cold snaps of winter hit the country, it’s time to be sure you’re shopping for what’s in season or focusing on frozen and canned options to save money.

Wholesale prices rose more than expected last month as food prices surged by the most in 26 years, according to the Associated Press – something that we at Supermarketguru.com have been predicting since early this spring. As winter approaches, fresh produce is limited in much of the country, which forces many of us to turn to canned or frozen options.

Since Americans typically eat only one-third of the recommended daily intake (three servings instead of nine) of fruits and vegetables, if you’re in a bind, a vegetable in any form is better than no vegetable at all. Here are some tips to save you money at the register and keep your family eating healthy.

First, rethink your choices by selecting genuinely seasonal vegetables that are in abundance: parsnips, rutabagas, potatoes, beets, and other root vegetables. They're nutritious, delicious, and easy to bake along with a chicken, or add texture and flavor to soups.

Using canned vegetables and beans in soups and stews provides the same nutritional value as the fresh ingredients likely would provide. Because canned foods already are cooked, they require only minimal further cooking time. Research studies in scientific journals show 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:

Canning is one of the safest ways to preserve foods. The high heat process, used for many decades, kills microorganisms that cause food-borne illnesses. Still, it is critical to be sure of the integrity of the can. Do not buy dented or slightly bulging cans as this can be sign the product inside is compromised.

Be sure to read the nutritional labels. Although many consumers say they read labels, they usually are checking for calories or fat content. Check to be sure there are no added ingredients.

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 label 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 routinely is added. If reducing sodium intake is a health concern, many manufacturers have low-sodium alternatives.

Finally read the label for more than just ingredients. Check the country or origin so you can understand the locale of the product inside. Also be sure to check for expiration dates by reading the product code. Product codes can be one of the most valuable tools in deciphering the freshness of a product. Unfortunately, just like in the case of freshness dating, there is no mandatory or universal standard for these codes. Learn more how to read product codes by clicking here.