As the winter months are upon us, many of us miss the fresh produce from the summer farmer’s market and are reluctant to pay extra for fresh, out-of-season fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. Don’t worry, you can still feed your family nutrient packed produce throughout the winter without raising your grocery bill! Dr. Oz had a great segment on the Today Show on Tuesday, discussing what he calls “The 99% diet”, explaining that you don’t have to be among the wealthiest to purchase healthy food for yourself and your family. You can view the segment here.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are harvested when they reach their peak ripeness and contain optimum nutrient value at this time. Freezing produce when they are ripe preserves 85% of nutrients while some water-soluable nutrients are lost, such as vitamin C and B vitamins. However, flash-freezing locks in the majority of the nutrients, making frozen fruits and vegetables a noble alternative to the fresh version.
Similarly, canned vegetables are picked when ripe and canned quickly so many of the nutrients are retained. Canned vegetables may lose some vitamin C in the heating process, however preservatives and any food related contamination is also eliminated, making this variety among the safest. Canned items also retain their nutrient value after one to two years of storage.
In reality, the most nutrient packed fresh produce will be found in your garden or at the farmer’s market. Fresh produce in your grocery store likely does not contain 100% of it’s nutrient value as it is usually harvested prior to peak ripeness to account for transportation time. Therefore, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, which contain slightly less than full nutrient value, are a suitable option when looking for less expensive produce.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while choosing frozen and canned produce:
- Avoid excess fat and calories by choosing plain vegetables or those prepared with low-fat sauces.
- Frozen fruit sometimes contains added sugar, so check the label for varieties marked ‘unsweetened’.
- For canned fruit, look for those ‘packed in its own juices’, ‘packed in fruit juice’ or ‘unsweetened’ which contain less sugar than those packed in syrup.
- Canned vegetables can sometimes include added salt so choose ‘no salt added’ or ‘low sodium’ varieties to limit your sodium intake.