March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
When it comes to buying fruits and vegetables, many factors play a role in which types consumers choose, including nutritional value. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says no matter what form they take — fresh, frozen, canned or dried — fruits and vegetables are good-for-you foods that can be enjoyed at any time.
Here are ideas for getting the most from your fruits and vegetables, no matter what form they take.
Canned Fruits and Vegetables
- Get the juice. For canned fruit, look for descriptions on the label like "packed in its own juices," "packed in fruit juice," "unsweetened" or "no added sugar." Fruits packed in juices contain less added sugar and fewer calories than fruits packed in syrup.
- Pinch the salt. If you are cutting back on sodium, look for descriptions such as "no salt added" and "reduced sodium" on the labels of canned vegetables.
- Savor the flavor. Use canned fruits and vegetables immediately after opening for maximum flavor and nutritional value.
- Forgo the fat. When buying frozen vegetables, control fat and calories by choosing plain vegetables or those made with low-fat sauces.
- Check the label. Frozen fruits come in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties, so make sure to check the label and choose unsweetened fruit. Frozen fruit bars also make a nutritious snack, but read the label to learn if they're made with real fruit juice.
- Pick the plain. Dried fruit contains lots of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium and folate, but keep in mind that serving sizes are smaller. Also, some dried fruits may have added sugar so read the label. If you are sensitive to sulfites, check the label of dried fruits to make sure they are not preserved with sulfite, which may trigger an allergic reaction.
- Have a handful. Dried fruit is a great portable snack. It can also jazz up salads, pancakes, bread recipes or a bowl of cereal.
There are thousands of varieties of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables on grocery store shelves, which makes it easy to find foods that suit your tastes and fit into a healthy eating plan. For more information on developing a healthful eating plan that is right for you, contact a registered dietitian nutritionist.