Optimize your fruit and vegetable choices with tips from our wellness experts

eating well doesn't have to break the bankIt should come as no surprise that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is part of a healthy diet. The more vegetables and fruit you eat, the less likely you are to develop cardiovascular disease, age-related eye diseases, osteoporosis and some types of cancer. What does seem to be surprising to many is how easy it is to incorporate vegetables and fruit into our diets. We often hear one of these comments as the reason someone is not eating enough vegetables and fruit:

     “Fresh produce is so expensive.”

     “Fresh produce goes bad before I use it.”

     “I don’t know what I should buy, and I don’t know what to do with the stuff I do buy.”

These are legitimate questions and concerns. Here are some things to consider that will hopefully help to address how to incorporate produce more easily into your diet.

Add More Variety

We eat with our eyes. Lots of color and variety is key. We eat with our eyes – color and variety make a plate of food look more enticing. Keep this in mind when you are trying to persuade yourself or your family to eat more vegetables and fruit. Not only does variety prevent boredom, it also ensures that your body gets a full spectrum of nutrients. Different types and colors of foods provide different vitamins, minerals and other plant compounds that enable your body to perform its everyday functions and prevent disease. Add produce that is in season or locally grown is likely to be fresher and more flavorful, and generally it is more cost effective.

TIP: Purchase produce in season, cut it up into smaller pieces and freeze for use throughout the year.

Fresh vs. Frozen vs. Canned

While fresh is always best, it may not always be possible to have fresh produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables are convenient, nutritious, and often less expensive, so they are your next best option. Avoid items with added sugar, butter or sauces, as this adds extra calories and fat. In the case of beans and tomato products, canned versions are far more convenient and can still be relatively healthy. When buying canned vegetables, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added options; otherwise, drain and rinse thoroughly to reduce the sodium.

TIP: Keep some frozen vegetables on hand for a quick and easy addition to soups, pastas or rice dishes.

Think About Organic

Should you buy organic produce? That’s something you have to decide for yourself.

If you would like to eat organic foods to reduce the amount of synthetic chemicals you ingest, but you can’t buy organic every time, here are a few suggestions for prioritizing your purchases:

  • If you frequently eat a lot of certain types of fruits or vegetables, buy organic versions of them to reduce your intake of the particular pesticides commonly used on those crops.
  • Check out “The Dirty Dozen.” It is a list of conventional produce that, according the Environmental Working Group, carries a high pesticide load. Buying organic versions of these foods can reduce your consumption of toxic chemicals.
  • Most pesticide residue exists on the outer surface of produce, so you may want to buy organic if you are planning to eat the skin.

Organic foods are not necessarily more nutritious, and there is no good evidence to show that eating organic produce reduces your risk of cancer. The important thing is that you eat more fruits and veggies, however you manage to do it.

For more tips on making the most of your produce see this TMC for Women post.

Design your personalized nutrition plan or tour the grocery store with help from our registered dietitians

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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