June is National Fruit and Vegetable Month, so I thought it would be fitting to talk about shopping for produce. More specifically, I want to discuss how you can get fruits and vegetables in without breaking your bank! I will also discuss some “hidden ways” to consume fruits and vegetables for those who just aren’t big fans. Gentle nutrition is important, but so is being satisfied with the foods you eat!
Produce in Season
Look for fresh produce at the grocery store when it is in season! Produce in season will be fresher and more flavorful. In addition, produce out of season is often more expensive (unless there is a sale). You can also shop sustainably by finding a local farm or farmer’s market to purchase produce when it is in season!
So, what is in season right now? “Fresh from Florida” produce that you will see in your grocery store for the month of June includes avocados, cantaloupe, carambola, eggplant, guava, lychee, mango, mushrooms, oranges, papaya, passion fruit, peanuts, potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, and watermelon. You can also click here – May – June – July – to check out what else is currently fresh and soon to-be fresh from Florida! (on the Produce of the Month page, you can also click on each month to view produce in season)
Tip: For safety, run fresh produce under running water thoroughly before cutting, cooking, or eating. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry them. You should do this even if you plan to peel your produce or are only eating the inside (such as an avocado). When you cut into produce like this, your knife can transfer anything from the outside to the part you eat. Rinse off these types of produce just before eating.
Tip: When buying fresh lettuce and other greens, you can add a paper towel to each side of the bag to make the greens stay fresh longer. Moisture often builds up in the bag over time, causing the greens to smell and become mushy. Adding the paper towels soaks up the moisture, allowing your greens to last longer!
Other Ways to Enjoy Produce
Is your favorite produce not in season right now? It is certainly not necessary to break your bank just to consume fresh produce options. There are plenty of other nutritious ways to get your daily fruits and vegetables in!
Frozen – These are cheap, more convenient, and they last longer. Frozen fruits and vegetables have similar vitamin and mineral content as fresh because they are typically frozen right after harvesting in order to preserve the nutrients. For a convenient option, add frozen berries to your smoothie or toss frozen broccoli in a safe bowl and microwave!
Canned – Canned fruits and vegetables are great because they are non-perishable, cheap, and have similar nutrient mineral content as fresh because they are typically canned right after harvesting in order to preserve the nutrients. For canned fruits, you want to look for ones that are canned in water or 100% juice to reduce amount of added sugars. For canned vegetables, you want to give them a good rinse (I rinse mine about 3 times thoroughly). Doing this will reduce the overall sodium content that is added as a preservative.
One thing to keep in mind is some canned and frozen produce (typically fruit) will have a lower fiber content due to the removal of peels and skins in the canning and freezing process. You want to be sure to get fiber in your diet other ways if these are your go-to options! Some other sources of fiber include canned beans, lentils, whole grains, seeds, and dried fruit.
100% Juice – Juices are cheap and last longer than fresh options. Many fruit juices have added sugars in them, which is fine, if that’s what you are looking for! However, if you want a fairly even swap between fresh and an alternative option, you want to look for the 100% juices because these be most comparable in nutrients to the fresh option. This is the same for vegetable juices, look for the “100% vegetable juice” options.
Dried – Dried fruit is a great alternative to fresh options because they last longer and often contain more fiber and antioxidants. Dried fruit is a delicious addition in trail mixes, granola bars, muffins, energy bites, and more!
What about those veggie chips… Do those count? Most vegetable chips have a similar nutrient content as regular potato chips, with minimal amounts of vitamins and minerals. If you like the taste of them, it is certainly OK to enjoy them! However, just be mindful that most are not a “fairly even swap” for fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables.
Discover the Satisfaction with Produce
If you tend to be a picky eater or just aren’t a huge fan of fruits and vegetables, don’t force eat them. Instead, experiment with food and find what flavors work best for you! If the only way you like broccoli is with delicious, stringy cheese on top, then eat it that way! Just because it tastes good doesn’t mean you need to question it. You are supposed to enjoy the food you eat! In addition, here are some “hidden ways” you can consume fruits and vegetables:
- Add spinach to a smoothie. Even though it may turn your smoothie a funky green color, I promise you won’t even taste it! You can also add bananas and other frozen fruit to a smoothie.
- Consume tomato salsa with chips, on top of fish, or with your tacos
- Add fruit to granola bars, trail mix, muffins, or pancakes
- Add tomato sauce to your favorite pasta or Italian dish
- Consume V8 Juice Blends – V8 has a variety of fruit and vegetable drinks with minimal added sugars. The vegetable juices all contain 2 full servings of vegetables and the fruit and vegetable blends contain 1 full serving of fruit and 1 full serving of vegetables. You could also add these juices to a smoothie if you don’t like the taste alone!
When we get back on campus, also keep in mind our locations that serve smoothies and juice blends. In addition to tasting delicious, many of those have whole fruits and vegetables added! You can also utilize the residential dining locations for fresh fruit and vegetable options.
How much do I need?
The key is to aim for a variety of foods and food groups at each meal and snack. This is a general guideline, not a rule to follow. Not consuming fruits or vegetables at one meal or for one day will not make or break your health! Below is chart with general recommendations for fruits and vegetables.
Produce of the Month
Did you know that bananas are June’s produce of the month? Even though I love bananas, I can’t ever seem to eat them fast enough before they turn too ripe for my liking. If this sounds like you, too, I have a couple of tips for you!
- Once they start to ripen perfectly (according to you), stick them in the refrigerator. The outside may continue to brown, but refrigeration will preserve the flavor for another week!
- Use the ripe bananas to make delicious baked goods, like these Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins! (my go-to option)
- You can also store the ripe bananas in the freezer to use for baked goods or to add to smoothies!
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you feel that it is difficult to get adequate fruits and vegetables in your diet! I am available to all USF Dining meal plan holders!