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.
Should one buy fruits or vegetables in season or out of season? At the supermarket or from the farmers' market? These are frequent questions that consumers often face when purchasing fresh produce.
Most health risks that are linked to produce can be eliminated with proper food preparation like cleaning produce thoroughly.
Below are tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to keep in mind when shopping for your next bunch of grapes or head of lettuce.
- If you go to a farmers market, go early to avoid produce that has been sitting out all day long.
- If you are not satisfied with the store's selection, ask the produce manager if there is more available.
- Buy loose produce rather than packaged; you will have more control over what you select.
- Don't purchase produce with mold, bruises or cuts.
- Buy only the amount of produce that you will use within a week.
- Buy most produce in season when possible.
- Promptly store produce that needs refrigeration.
- Fresh, whole produce such as bananas and potatoes don't need refrigeration.
- Refrigerate fresh produce within two hours of peeling or cutting.
- Throw away leftover cut produce that is left at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Discard cooked vegetables after 3 to 4 days.
- Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables with cool tap water immediately before eating.
- Wash produce before you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren't transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable. Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There's no need to use soap or a produce wash. For firm produce such as melons and cucumbers, scrub with a clean produce brush.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Use two separate cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination, use one for raw meats and the other for fruits and vegetables. Color-coded cutting boards can help you remember which is which.
- Cook raw sprouts (alfalfa, clover, etc.); it significantly reduces the risk of illness.
Download: Summer Produce Tip Sheet