Let's give a hand to fruits and vegetables! They're the nutritional stars of your diet. But how can you make sure they are giving their best performance at every meal?
Try these four tips for coaxing the most out of produce.
Give them proper accommodations. Store perishable fresh produce in the refrigerator, and make sure the temperature in your fridge is set to 40 degrees or below. If a fruit or veggie wasn't sold refrigerated at the market, it probably doesn't need refrigeration at home. (Think bananas and tomatoes.)
Don't overdress vegetables in fat or salt. Natural talents like flavor and texture can get lost under a layer of creamy sauce or excessive salt. Instead, preserve nutrients and other goodness in vegetables by steaming them until just crisp-tender. Or enhance the flavor of winter vegetables by roasting them in a little oil. Try replacing salt with lemon zest, herbs or spices.
Let creativity reign. Add dried fruits to your couscous. Use pureed, cooked veggies to thicken stews and gravies. Mash up days-old fruit into a sweet, nutritious pancake topping. Turn a jar of plain spaghetti sauce into a veggie fest by adding mushrooms, peppers and onions.
Let canned and frozen share the lead. Fresh produce isn't the only healthy choice. Canned and frozen can be nutritious too. Just be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label on the can or package. Look for vegetables that are labeled low- or no-sodium. Choose canned fruit that's packed in its own juice, not syrup. And pick 100 percent frozen fruits with no added sugars.
Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; American Heart Association; American Institute for Cancer Research