Routt County CSU Extension: When ‘fresh’ is hard to find |

Routt County CSU Extension: When ‘fresh’ is hard to find

— When it comes to healthy eating, the biggest challenge for most people is including enough fruits and vegetables in their diet. Some complain that they eat less produce during the winter months because fresh produce is hard to find or very expensive. Next time you go shopping consider canned or frozen produce as a convenient and less expensive alternative to well-traveled fresh produce.

At the very least, adults should be consuming five servings per day of fruits and vegetables, yet most of us fall short of that goal. In fact, a national survey found that only 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.

My recommendation in the summer months is always — fresh is best. But recently I have started adding the caveat that it depends on how you buy and store your produce.

The challenge is that once fruits and vegetables are harvested, they begin to lose nutrients. Those fresh green beans that you bought on sale, but haven’t consumed, can lose up to 45 percent of their nutrients in the two weeks it takes you to find the time to cook them. The longer that you allow them to sit in your produce drawer, the more it makes sense to consider frozen or canned alternatives. Several research studies have shown that canned or frozen versions of vegetables may be more nutritious than their fresh counterparts after several days of storage.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of freshness, and then flash frozen. This quick farm-to-frozen process retains most of the nutrients and provides a convenient way to have mangoes in January and peas in March. The texture with frozen foods will be different than fresh, but they are a nutritious choice for smoothies and cooked dishes. Make sure to select frozen vegetables without added sauces and frozen fruits without added sugar.

To further extend your produce options, stock up when canned fruits and vegetables are on sale. While nutrient losses are more significant with canning versus freezing, canned goods can be stored at room temperature for long periods of time.

Select canned goods that are “no salt added” versions of vegetables and select fruits canned without syrups or added sugar. Canned goods provide healthy produce options that will last a long time in your pantry. The canning process can actually boost the antioxidant content of tomatoes, but make sure that you select lower sodium versions.

For a well-balanced eating style, I encourage you to eat more fruits and vegetables, whether they be fresh, frozen or canned — whatever form best fits your lifestyle and your pocketbook.

Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science Extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 or email with questions.

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