All Entries For vegetables

Which Fruits and Veggies are in the New Dirty Dozen?

We often hear that organic produce is "cleaner" than conventional (non-organic) produce and free of pesticides; however, organic remains more expensive and isn't available everywhere.

Which conventional fruits and vegetables contain more pesticide residue? Which ones have the least?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently completed an analysis of conventional produce to measure pesticide residue levels. Based on the results of almost 34,000 samples taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal Food and Drug Administration. Samples were tested after being washed or peeled, to mimic what consumers would do. Therefore, unwashed and unpeeled produce would likely contain even more concentrations of pesticide residues.

Eating the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables, referred to as “The Dirty Dozen,” exposes the average person to about 15 different pesticides each day, while someone eating the least contaminated will be exposed to fewer than two pesticides each day. (To see the full list, go here).

The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Foods to Buy Organic

If you have budget constraints, your money is doing more for your health when you put it towards organic varieties of the following fruits and vegetables (listed in descending order, starting with greatest levels pesticide contamination):

1. Apples
2. Peaches
3. Nectarines
4. Strawberries
5. Grapes
6. Celery
7. Spinach
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
9. Cucumbers
10. Cherry Tomatoes
11. Imported Snap Peas
12. Potatoes

The Clean 15: Save Your Money & Buy Conventional

If going totally organic is too difficult or pricey, play it safe and eat the following conventional produce items to minimize your exposure. These are known to have the least amount of pesticide residue (listed in ascending order, starting with of lowest levels of pesticide contamination):

1. Avocados
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Frozen sweet peas
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Papayas
10. Kiwis
11. Eggplant
12. Grapefruit
13. Cantalope
14. Cauliflower
15. Sweet potatoes

To see receive a PDF version of the guides, you can sign up for the EWG's newsletter here).

When eating conventional foods, be certain to peel away edible skins and outer leaves (such as those on lettuce) as pesticides are often concentrated there. Remember to wash all produce (conventional and organic) thoroughly with a natural fruit and vegetable cleanser. Peeling and washing can help reduce (not eliminate) pesticide exposure, but also results in the loss of valuable vitamins and nutrients (like fiber). When you have the choice between an organic item and one that’s conventionally grown, choose organic as much as possible. 

For more information on eating organic foods on a budget, read this article.

I keep a copy of this list on a note in my phone, and I consult it when I go to the grocery store.

Do you have "priorities" when buying organic? Do you follow this list?

Last updated in September 2015

Posted 9/28/2015  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 114 comments   18,542 views
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Why Fruits & Vegetables Are So Good for You

The 2010 U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that all Americans eat more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Government guidelines aside, you surely grew up with your mom telling you to eat your vegetables. Or maybe you even hear it now from your doctor.  
When you're new to adopting a healthy diet, you may wonder: What's so good about fruits and vegetables anyway? What kind of benefits will I see if I eat more?  Here are four good reasons to be like Bugs Bunny and chomp away on more fresh produce.
Posted 3/9/2014  12:00:00 PM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 3 comments   17,842 views
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Take Cucumbers beyond Pickles

Cucumbers should have a permanent slot on your shopping list.  There are endless ways to use them in the kitchen.  Grab a couple because one a week may not be enough.
How to harvest or select from the store:
Cucumbers are very easy to grow. The hard part is to getting out into the garden and harvesting every day once the plants start producing.  Whether you are in a garden or in the produce section at your favorite market, choose firm and bright green cucumbers.  Large cucumbers might seem like a bargain when sold at a unit price instead of by pound, but the large varieties tend to have tough skins and large watery seed cavities. 
Choose small cucumbers because they have small seed cavities, thin skins, and tender flesh. If the market only has large ones, you might want to peel them and scoop out the seeds.
For peak freshness, choose cucumbers that are dark green, with no yellow spots or bruising on the flesh, which can be a sign that the cucumber may be bitter or bland. 
Most cukes at the market are coated with edible wax or oil. You can scrub it away or peel it off, but you do need to remove it before eating.
Posted 7/2/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 35 comments   37,321 views
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How to Make Dried Fruit (Using Your Oven)

It's summer, and that means fruit trees, bushes, and berry plants are exploding with a bountiful harvest.  A healthy goal is to eat a variety of these local and fresh fruits.  
If we fast forward to fall, the taste of sweet, juicy strawberries are all but gone.  Never fear!  With local produce at its peak, think like the animals--harvest and store for winter.   
When it comes to fruit, you have three options: can, freeze, or dry.
Today I'm going to teach you how to turn summer's freshest fruit into a snack you can enjoy year-round. It's like nature's candy, and it requires no special equipment.
While you could use a dehydrator or old-fashioned drying cabinet, you don't need one. All you need is an oven, parchment paper or silicone liners and sheet pans or pizza screens if you have them. 
Posted 6/20/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 80 comments   389,877 views
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The Healthiest Leafy Green--and How to Eat It

We all know it's a good idea to eat leafy green veggies. They're chock-full of nutritious vitamins and minerals, and they're low in calories to boot. But if you can only stomach so much green in your life, which leafy green should you choose for the maximum nutritional benefits: Spinach, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, or collard greens?
Posted 6/6/2013  9:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 96 comments   70,537 views
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Kale Recipes You'll Actually Eat

My current go-to green vegetable is kale, which has nutritional value and health benefits that are off-the-charts. Whether I’m throwing it in my smoothie or steaming it as a recipe addition, I do my best to eat it every day.

The next time you are at the supermarket grab a bunch of kale and start cooking these recipes that you’ll actually eat and taste great.

Kale Stew

Enchilada Casserole with Kale and Sweet Potatoes

Posted 4/25/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 49 comments   281,085 views
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Easy Asparagus Recipes

Asparagus is delicious when prepared simply: steamed, roasted or grilled. I like to blanch and shock the asparagus before grilling.  Boil the asparagus for 1 minute (this is the "blanch" part of the process).  Immediately plunge the asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking process (this is the "shock"). The asparagus will turn bright green and retain all its taste and nutrition. Dry it off and then grill it. Serve alone or on a pizza. Or serve it cold with vinaigrette.
How do you prepare it? Easy--Mother Nature gave you a guide. Pick up a spear, hold one end in each hand, and snap it. It will naturally break at the spot where it turns from woody to tender. You can either snap each spear or use the first one as a guide and cut them all off at the same spot.
Don't throw away those tough ends. You can simmer them for stocks or puree and use in soups. If all your spears are thick and woody, use a vegetable peeler to trim the outside and expose the tender interior.
You'll love these easy asparagus recipes:

Salmon-Asparagus Casserole

Crab and Asparagus Crepes

Asparagus Tart with Ricotta

Strawberry-Asparagus Salad

Roasted Salmon with Lemon Couscous and Asparagus

Easy Asparagus Au Gratin

Asparagus Wrapped in Phyllo Dough

Posted 4/11/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 43 comments   40,760 views
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6 Ways to Pick Peppers for Dinner

We love bell peppers. Served raw, they're a tangy and low-calorie snack and a great addition to any salad. When cooked, their natural sweetness is highlighted. We've picked a pack of pepper recipes that are both delicious and nutritious!
Chicken Fajita Stuffed Peppers: Who says you have to serve fajitas in a flour tortilla? Instead of serving peppers in the fajitas, I serve fajitas in a roasted pepper!

Chicken Oregano with Sweet Peppers: Serve this on top of a bed of brown rice.

Stuffed Bell Peppers: This stuffed bell pepper recipe is really delicious! You can use red bell peppers if you like that flavor better. It incorporates your protein, starch, and veggies in one neat package! Brown rice is used for an added nutritional punch.

Chicken Tostadas with Corn and Peppers: Tostadas top tacos in our book: This knife-and-fork meal lets you pile on more (healthy) toppings!
Posted 4/9/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 46 comments   453,976 views
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The 10 Healthiest Foods You've Never Tried

I recently saw a list of the 10 Healthiest Foods You've Never Tried. I pride myself on being an adventurous (mostly vegetarian) eater. When I saw the list, I was excited to see how many I'd eaten.

How many have you eaten?
Posted 3/10/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 684 comments   151,145 views
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10 Super Stuffed Bell Pepper Recipes

Are you looking for new ways to eliminate unhealthy ingredients and add more healthy ingredients to your recipes? Stuffed Bell Peppers are a fun way just to do that. A large size bell pepper has about 50 calories and is loaded with folate, magnesium, copper, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and potassium. Use peppers in place of high calorie wraps that have very little nutritional value. For an added bonus, stuff your peppers nutritional storehouses like beans, lentils, whole grains, finely chopped veggies and lean meats. Top it off with a puréed vegetable sauce for added flavor. Keep yourself healthy with these 10 super stuffed pepper recipes. 
Posted 3/7/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 18 comments   366,411 views
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11 Healthy Cabbage Recipes

When you think of cabbage, do you think of a garnish used to add color or fill in the white space on a plate? Or worse, do you remember watery, mushy, or chewy boiled cabbage that a relative over-boiled with cured meat? If so, then you share my shock and surprise that, at least until recently, I've been missing out on the vitamins and nutrients packed into this water-rich super food. Cabbage has more vitamin C than an orange is a great source of vitamins A, K and also is high in folate and fiber too.  I like the flavor that it adds to soups and salads. My favorite recipe in the "The SparkPeople Cookbookis Chef Meg’s Minestrone Soup and much of the flavor and nutrition comes from the two cups and chopped cabbage in this recipe. Use these cabbage recipes to add extra vegetables to your nutritional intake. 
Posted 2/26/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 25 comments   98,381 views
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Meet the Best Meatless Protein Sources

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you've probably been asked countless questions about how you get your protein. The truth is, it's not as hard as you might think to meet your protein needs when you're going meatless. However, some plant sources are higher in this important nutrient than others. Which veg-friendly food packs more protein: 4 ounces of tofu, 1 cup of cooked lentils, or 1 cup of cooked quinoa
Posted 2/23/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 34 comments   40,361 views
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A Better Way to Get Vitamin C (Besides Orange Juice!)

With cold and flu season in full swing, most of us are trying to do all we can to avoid catching one of the nasty viruses floating around. Some swear by vitamin C-rich orange juice for warding off disease. Although the evidence about vitamin C's illness-fighting powers is conflicting, there's no doubt that it's still a good nutrient to consume. Since the body does not produce vitamin C, you must obtain it from outside sources to create and repair skin cells and fight off the effects of damaging free radicals. If you eat your veggies, though, it's not hard to reach your daily quota, since all fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C to some degree. That's right; orange juice isn't your only option for getting this important nutrient! Which type of produce will deliver the highest amount of vitamin C per serving: Red bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi, or oranges?
Posted 1/19/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Melinda Hershey : 51 comments   48,126 views
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10 Healthy, Easy Ways to Cook Squash of All Sorts

Squash is one of those vegetable categories that spans a whole range of colors, flavors, shapes, textures and growing seasons. From acorn squash to zucchini, this veggie family has it all, including nutrients, fiber and fewer than 75 calories per serving.
Summer varieties (like zucchini and yellow squash) are nutritious, with antioxidants and carotenoids; they’re ideal for sautéing. (Try: 10 New Uses for Zucchini)
Hard-skinned winter squashes (acorn, butternut, pumpkin) are packed with antioxidants and vitamin A and roast beautifully. And spaghetti squash makes a delightfully different (and super low-cal) substitute for pasta.
Posted 12/14/2012  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 20 comments   44,810 views
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Better Butternut Squash Recipes

Butternut squash is my favorite fall vegetable. I tell my kids that it's like vegetable candy, because roasting brings out its natural sweetness and reduces the need for sugar in our favorite fall deserts.
Consuming butternut squash adds fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A and C to your diet. Here's an easy way to pick the perfect one at most stores. For maximum efficiency, roast extra squashes and freeze the extra flesh for later use. If you're short on time, just pick up some pre-cut Butternut Squash in the freezer section at your market. Another fun tip is to grind the seeds in a coffee or spice grinder and use as a natural thickening agent in soups and stews. 
Celebrate fall with these butternut squash recipes. 
Posted 11/13/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 16 comments   20,544 views
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