The No-Excuses Appeal of Fruits and VeggiesCheck Your Reasons at the Door
-- By Laura Bofinger, Staff Writer
By now you know the importance of getting at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (if not, click here). Perhaps you are still not convinced? Use the excuse-buster list below when you find yourself reasoning your way out of reaching for the good stuff. Excuses are easy to make, but with a little exploration, you’ll find that you can reach your healthy-habit goals quicker.
Excuse 1: Buying fruits and vegetables can be costly and they spoil too quickly.
- Buy them in-season and fresh. The y will be cheaper AND at their peak of flavor. Consider that you are getting nutrient-dense foods that your body craves, full of vitamins and minerals. They are certainly better buys than chips, cookies, and soda, which we normally buy regardless of cost.
- Buy both ripe and unripe items (for example, yellow and green bananas). That way you have some for immediate eating the first few days while the others are ripening.
- Keep fruits and vegetables on the top shelf of the fridge, on the kitchen counter or table. If you see them several times in a day, you will be more likely to eat them before they spoil.
- Take advantage of your grocery salad bar, which provides already sliced varieties. Eat them in snack form or toss in a salad with less prep time.
- Stock up on frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. These are simple to prepare in the microwave and offer similar nutritional value to the fresh variety. Sometimes frozen vegetables lock in nutrients better than "fresh" ones that have sat for a few days. If buying canned food, look for the low-sodium varieties.
- Wash, slice, and dice ahead of time. Store in a clear container in the front of your fridge where you can see and reach for it on a daily basis for immediate use. <pagebreak>
- Debates continue on the dangers of pesticides used on our foods. Remember that the FDA regulates pesticide use very strictly. You might consider buying "organically grown" varieties, which means that no pesticides are used. Most health authorities report that the health benefits that come from eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the concerns of pesticide use. Still skeptical? The following steps will help reduce risks.
- Wash produce with warm water. Don’t use any soaps. Scrub well with a dish brush. This is important especially if you are eating the outer skin of items such as apples, cucumbers, or potatoes.
- Discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables that tend to be dirty, such as lettuce and cabbage.
- Peel and cook when appropriate. Realize that you lose some nutrients and fiber in this process.
- It’s true that vitamins break down in heat and air. The longer and hotter you cook something, the more nutrients you lose. But there are simple, easy ways to avoid major vitamin loss when preparing fruits and vegetables. The most obvious, of course, is to eat raw fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
- Cook only until crisp and tender. Otherwise known as al dente, a crisper vegetable or fruit will retain more nutrients than a mushy one. A good way to achieve this is steaming rather than boiling your food.
- Use as little water as possible while cooking. This reduces the dissolving action of vitamins.
- Use big pieces rather than small, cut-up pieces. Minimizing the surface area of each piece prevents loss of vitamins when exposed to air.
- Cover your pots during cooking to contain steam and heat. This helps reduce cooking time and therefore saves nutrients.
- The water you’ve used for cooking vegetables can be reused in soups, sauces, stews or vegetable juices. This is a way to get the benefit of residual vitamins.