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Fresh, Frozen and Canned OH MY!

By Christina Di Lieto

Celebrate the start of a new season by cooking new recipes found on the internet. Full of enthusiasm, you rush to the local grocery store to buy the ingredients. Many times recipes don’t mention whether fruit and vegetable ingredients should be fresh, frozen, or canned, and suddenly your head starts to spin. Don’t panic! I have developed the ultimate guide for purchasing produce.

Fresh fruits and vegetables have not been processed and packaged. They offer a desirable texture and flavor without excess additives. Although fresh fruits and vegetables do not sustain a long shelf life, purchasing small amounts frequently can help limit waste. When buying produce, it is also important to keep in mind which items are in season. Fruits and vegetables that are in season will be easier to find, more flavorful, and usually less expensive!

Frozen fruits and vegetables are another great way to reach the goal of eating 5 or more servings a day. Most produce is processed within hours of harvesting to ensure lasting flavor and minimal nutrient loss. This is a great solution if you find your fresh produce spoiling before getting a chance to use it. The freezer aisle can provide consumers with fruits and veggies that require little preparation and greater availability during all seasons at an affordable price. Although there are many benefits to frozen items, it is crucial to read the Nutrition Facts labels. Excess sodium and calories can sneak into vegetables that are packaged in sauces and seasonings. Food labels are a great source of information for recipes as well.

Lastly, there are canned fruits and vegetables. When buying them, it is very important to read the label to determine how the food item is packaged. The best descriptions to look for are those that read “packed in its own juices”, “packed in fruit juice”, “unsweetened”, or “no added sugar”. Items packed in juices contain less added sugar and calories than canned items packed in syrup. Another big ingredient to watch out for when reading canned food labels is salt. Look to purchase cans that read “reduced sodium” and “no added salt”. Canned items usually have a long shelf life which is beneficial to consumers but at the cost of an increased amount of salt. To reduce the amount of sodium in canned items, fruits and vegetables can be rinsed and drained.

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, half of our plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. They are are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Since produce is a large part of our diet, there should be no obligation to buy one form of fruits and vegetables over the other. The options of fresh, frozen, and canned items allow for more variety and convenience at all times of the year!

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Christina Di Lieto is a Dietetic Intern with C.W. Post LIU with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program


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