Fresh, Frozen, or Canned: Which is best when it comes to selecting fruits and vegetables?

As a registered dietitian I am often asked, “Which is better for you: fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables”? The answer is that all fruits and vegetables are nutrient-rich and since most of us fall short of getting enough servings each day, the best fruits and vegetables to choose are the ones that your family will eat. Whether you select fresh, frozen or canned, make sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and don’t be afraid to try something new that you have never tasted before. Here are some factors to consider when shopping for fruits and vegetables.

When buying fresh …

It is hard to go wrong when selecting fresh fruits and vegetables. To save money, look for produce that is in season or on sale. Pay attention to fruits ripeness as many varieties continue to ripen after picking. Purchase ripe fruit if you are going to eat it soon after buying and fruit that isn’t quite ripe yet if you don’t plan to enjoy it until later in the week.  Look for fruits and vegetables without bruises and fruit should feel heavy for its size and vegetables should be crisp and brightly colored.  Fresh produce can lose nutrients the longer it sits around so buy amounts that you can use within a week. When possible, eat fruits and vegetables with the skin to get extra fiber and nutrients.

When buying frozen …

Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option year-round but are especially convenient during winter months when some of your favorite varieties may be out of season. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often picked and processed at the peak of their ripeness and then flash frozen, which locks in their flavor and nutrients. To maximize nutrition, choose plain frozen fruits and vegetables without added sauce or sugar. When cooking vegetables, steam or microwave rather than boil to minimize loss of water soluble vitamins. For the best quality, use frozen fruits and vegetables within 8 months of purchase. 

When buying canned …

Canned fruits and vegetables are non-perishable and great to have on hand when you need a quick side dish or want to add extra nutrients to soups, pasta’s or casseroles. When buying canned fruit, you can reduce added sugar and calories, by selecting varieties packed in fruit juice rather than syrup. When selecting canned vegetables, look for those labeled “reduced sodium” or “no salt added.”

To help you increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, try this recipe for Summer Spinach Strawberry and Feta Salad. 

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