Eating more fruits and vegetables is a goal for many people, yet adding them into our daily meals sometimes creates a challenge.  Fresh and local fruits and vegetables are the best choices, and in another two months the options to choose local vegetables and some fruits will be available through farmers markets.   Until then, selecting in- season produce and frozen fruits and vegetables are good alternatives to locally grown produce.    Check out this Guide  to Buying Fruits and Vegetables  

Better Choices with Canned or Frozen Produce

Canned or frozen produce is handy when planning meals in advance and for bulk purchasing. While they may keep longer than fresh produce, some varieties may be loaded with sugar, salt or additives. The better choice when buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables is to select those varieties packaged with just the item itself. Frozen vegetables are often processed with nothing added and canned vegetables varieties can be found salt-free and sugar-free. Frozen fruits are sometimes processed with sugar, but check the label and you will find varieties are available where the item is quick frozen without sugar.

Go Organic for the Popular Items

While organic foods are pesticide-free and all natural they are usually more expensive. Instead of busting a budget for all organic produce, a great choice is to choose organic fresh fruits and vegetables the family eats daily or often. Do the members of your family enjoy eating pears? This would be a great item to purchase organically grown.  Just knowing one item that the family eats on a regular basis is free of pesticides can be reassuring for parents and may get some adults to eat more fruits too.  As I mentioned, in June Farmers’ Markets will be opening, and there you will be able to get local organically grown food at reasonable prices.  The good news is many of the markets will be having Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machines so food stamps recipients can purchase produce.

 To meet the challenge of incorporating fruits and vegetables into our everyday diets, here are a few tips:

Offer fruits or vegetables for Healthy Snacks

After school can be a time for active snacking, so offering fruits or vegetables for children is great. This also goes well for adults wanting a snack during the day or in the evening. Having a bowl of cut-up apples, oranges or bananas sprinkled with lemon juice for flavor and to prevent browning makes a great snack while doing homework. Mini carrots or carrot sticks are the easy and usual choice. Also try adding radishes, zucchini sticks and cucumber sticks for something easy and inexpensive to prepare.   Have low –fat dressing for dipping.

 If it is necessary to keep shelf stable fruits and vegetables on hand, always read the labels. Applesauce may be a quick and delicious apple snack, but some varieties have high fructose corn syrup or colorings.

Fortify   prepared mixes

Quick mixes for fruit muffins and pancakes like blueberry or banana usually contain highly processed colored and flavored bits of imitation fruits. Making the recipe at home from scratch with the real thing is a better choice. Plain recipes such as muffins and pancakes can be easily fortified with frozen or fresh blueberries, chopped peaches or mashed banana.  Here  is a basic muffin mix to get started. Vegetables are easily incorporated into quick breads. Frozen cut corn or freshly chopped bell peppers can be stirred into cornbread mixes for added color and flavor and can give an added nutrient boost as well.  

 When in a hurry, frozen vegetables can also be added to packaged rice and noodle mixes to increase the volume, fiber and flavor without adding salt or added fat.   For a nice change, try adding added diced tomatoes (The no-salt version), and shredded fresh carrots, zucchini or yellow squash to your favorite pasta sauce.  For more ideas that are quick ways to increase fruits and vegetables into your daily diet and keep the cost down, Check out Fruits and Veggies: More Matters.

This week’s grocery tips:

Here is a recipe using these produce items to celebrate Mother’s Day

Berries and cantaloupes are inexpensive choices this week.  Cut the fruits and add canned pineapples and pears (packed in their own juice) for a quick and easy fruit salad.  The fruit salad can be offered for dessert or add some low-fat yogurt and whole grain cereal for a quick breakfast.  Check out this Crustless Tasso Ham, Asparagus, and Leek Quiche recipe!

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