The produce aisle will provide
you with a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.
some time in our produce area and load up your cart.
will keep for long periods in the freezer and do not lose
any nutritional value.
The Importance of Produce in
a Healthy Diet
are naturally low in calories and fat and provide an
array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You can never
eat too many vegetables!
Here are some
general shopping tips for buying produce:
- Buy fresh fruits and
vegetables that are in season to keep the prices
- Examine your fruits
and vegetables for freshness; avoid bruises and other
- If you're into “super-convenience,” buy
the prewashed, precut bags of salad, carrots, celery,
and anything else offered at your supermarket. Look
for premade fruit salads in either the fresh or frozen
sections of your grocery store.
- Check out the salad
bar in your grocery store. This way you can get the
exact amount of anything you need, and it's already
precut and prewashed for you.
- Speak with the person
in charge of produce at your local supermarket, ask
about unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, and then
try something new!
- Artichokes provide
potassium and folic acid. Look for artichokes that
are plump and heavy in relation to size. The many leaf-like
parts are called “scales” and should be
thick, green, and fresh-looking. Avoid artichokes with
any brownish discoloration or moldy growth on the scales.
- Asparagus provides
vitamins A and C, niacin, folic acid, potassium, and
iron. Look for closed, dense tips with smooth, deep
green spears. Avoid tips that are spread open or seem
to have any mold or decay.
- Broccoli provides
calcium, potassium, iron, fiber, vitamins A and C,
folic acid, and niacin. Look for stalks that are not
too tough with compact, firm bud clusters and that
are dark green or sage green in color. Avoid broccoli
with a wilted appearance, yellowish green discoloration,
or bud clusters that are spread open. These are all
signs of over-maturity.
- Brussels sprouts provide
vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium, iron, and
fiber. Look for brussels sprouts with a bright green
color and tight-fitting outer leaves. Avoid brussels
sprouts that appear to be wilting or have blemishes.
- Cabbage provides
vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Whether
it's green or red, cabbage can be used in coleslaw,
salads, and a variety of cooked dishes. Look for a
dense, heavy head of cabbage relative to its size,
with outer leaves that display a green or red color
(depending on the type). Avoid cabbages with outer
leaves that appear wilted or blemished.
- Carrots provide
vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Look for smooth, firm,
well-formed carrots that have a rich orange color.
Avoid roots that are discolored, soft, and flabby.
- Cauliflower provides
vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. Look for
compact, firm curds (the edible creamy-white portion),
and do not worry about green leaflets that may be scattered
throughout a bunch. Although most grocers sell cauliflower
without the outside jacket leaves, in the rare instance
that they are left on, a nice green color reveals freshness.
Avoid severe discoloration, blemishing, or spreading
of the white curd.
- Corn provides
vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Although yellow-kernel
is the most popular, there are varieties of white-kernel
and mixed-kernel corn as well. Look for fresh green
husks (the outer covering) and make sure that the silk
ends are free from decay or worm injury. If the corn
has already been husked (the outside covering removed),
choose ears of corn that are heavily covered with bright
yellow, plump kernels. Avoid kernels that appear dried
or are lacking in color.
- Eggplants provide
potassium. Look for firm, heavy, dark purple eggplants
(although there are other colored varieties). Avoid
any that are shriveled, soft, or lacking color, or
that reveal decay in the form of brownish spots.
- Lettuce comes
in several varieties: iceberg, butter-head, Romaine,
and leaf lettuce. It provides vitamin C and folic acid.
Look for bright color and crisp leaf texture when buying
Romaine. For other leafy variations, select succulent,
tender leaves and avoid any serious discoloration or
- Mushrooms provide
potassium, niacin, and riboflavin. Look for closed
mushroom caps around the stems, with the underneath
gills (rows of paper-thin tissue located underneath
the caps) colored pink or light tan. Avoid mushrooms
with wide-open caps and dark, discolored gills.
- Okra provides
vitamin A, potassium, and calcium. Look for bright
green, tender pods that are under 4½ inches
long. Avoid stiff tips (those that resist bending)
or pods with a lifeless, pale green color.
- Onions are
not a significant source of nutrition, but they can
certainly enhance the flavor of the foods you eat.
With all types (red, white, and yellow), look for hard,
dry onions that are free from blemishes. Avoid onions
that are wet or mushy.
- Peas (green)
provide vitamin A, folic acid, potassium, protein,
and fiber. Look for a firm, fresh appearance with bright
green pods. Avoid flabby, wilted pods, and any sign
- Peppers (sweet)
provide vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. Although
green peppers are the most common, other delicious
varieties include yellow, orange, red, purple, and
white. Look for firm peppers with deep characteristic
color. Avoid very lightweight, flimsy peppers that
have punctures or signs of decay on the outside.
- Potatoes provide
potassium, most B-vitamins, vitamin C, protein, and
fiber. Look for reasonably smooth, firm, and blemish-free
potatoes. Avoid those with large bruises and soft spots
and those that are sprouted or shriveled.
- Rhubarb provides
vitamin A, calcium, and potassium. Look for firm but
tender stems with a decent amount of pinkish red color.
Avoid rhubarb that appears wilted or flabby.
- Spinach provides
vitamin A, calcium, folic acid, potassium, and fiber.
Look for healthy, fresh leaves that have a dark green
color. Avoid spinach leaves that appear wilted or show
- Squash (summer)
provides vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber and
includes several varieties, such as yellow crookneck,
large straightneck, the greenish white pattypan, and
the slender green zucchini. Look for firm, well-developed,
tender squash. Check for a glossy (not dull) outside,
which indicates the squash is tender. Avoid dull, tough,
or discolored squash.
- Squash (winter)
includes acorn, butternut, buttercup, green and blue
hubbard, delicious, and banana, providing vitamins
A and C, potassium, and fiber. Look for squash that
is heavy for its size with a tough, hard outside rind.
Avoid squash with any signs of decay, including sunken
spots, bruising, or mold.
- Sweet potatoes provide
vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium, and fiber.
Look for firm, smooth sweet potatoes with uniformly
colored skins. The moist type known as yams should
have orange flesh, whereas dry sweet potatoes have
a more pale appearance. Avoid discoloration, wormholes,
and any other indication of decay.
- Tomatoes provide
vitamins A and C and potassium. Look for well-ripened,
smooth tomatoes with a rich, red color. If you're not
planning to eat them within the next few days, choose
slightly less ripe, firm tomatoes with a pink or light
red color. Only store fully ripe ones in the fridge
because the cold temperature might prevent immature
tomatoes from ripening. Avoid tomatoes that are over-ripened
and mushy or show any signs of decay.
For a quick nutritious
snack, a deliciously healthy dessert, or even part
of a creative meal, fruit rules. Similar to its
neighbor in our produce section, fruit is naturally
low in calories and fat (except for avocado and
coconut), while chock-full of nutrients and fiber.
Get in the habit of keeping a stash of fresh fruit.
Although dried fruit is another tasty option, keep
in mind that it is more concentrated in calories
because it has less water than its fresh counterparts.
Also, beware of canned (and sometimes frozen) fruit
with “heavy syrup added”; these are
packed with calories and sugar. When buying canned
or frozen fruit, read the labels and look for key
phrases such as “no added sugar,” “packed
in its own juice,” “packed in 100%
fruit juice,” or “unsweetened.”
What about fruit juice?
It's certainly not a substitute for whole fruit
(in fact, even the brands with pulp added will
be lacking in dietary fiber), but fruit juice does
provide nutrients and is clearly better than colas,
sweetened iced-teas, or fruit punch. Go ahead and
put a couple of juice containers in your shopping
cart. When available, opt for the brands with added
vitamin C or the calcium-fortified varieties.
Here are some
helpful hints for shopping for fresh fruits:
- Apples provide
potassium and fiber and are available in a bunch
of varieties, including Red Delicious, McIntosh,
Granny Smith, Empire, Washington, and Golden
Delicious. Although each kind differs in seasonal
availability, taste, and appearance, some general
shopping savvy is to look for crisp, firm apples
with a rich color (depending upon the type).
Avoid apples with bruising, soft spots, or mealy
- Apricots provide
a lot of vitamin A, iron, and some potassium
and fiber. Look for apricots that have a golden
orange color and appear to be plump and juicy.
Avoid apricots that are dull-looking, mushy,
or overly firm or that have a yellowish green
- Avocados provide
vitamin A, potassium, folic acid, and fiber.
Look for avocados that are slightly tender to
the touch if you plan to eat them immediately.
Otherwise, buy firm avocados and let them ripen
at room temperature for a few days. Avoid any
with broken surfaces or dark prominent spots.
- Bananas provide
a lot of potassium and some vitamin A and fiber.
Look for firm bananas that are either yellowish
green (and will ripen in a few days) or fully
yellow and ready to eat. In general, bananas
have their best flavor when the solid yellow
color is speckled with some brown. Avoid bananas
that are bruised or have a gray appearance.
- Blueberries provide
vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Look for plump,
firm blueberries that are dark blue in color.
Avoid berries that are mushy, moldy, or leaking.
- Cantaloupes provide
vitamins A and C and potassium. Look for cantaloupes
with rough skin that are slightly soft and flexible
when you press on the top or bottom and that
have a sweet, fresh odor. Avoid extremely hard
cantaloupes (unless you want to wait for them
to ripen) and any with moldy spots.
- Cherries provide
vitamin A and potassium. Look for cherries with
a dark red color, plump surfaces, and fresh stems.
Avoid cherries that appear dull, shriveled, or
- Grapefruits provide
vitamins A and C and potassium. Look for firm,
compact grapefruits that are heavy for their
size. Do not worry about slight discoloration
or skin scars; this usually does not interfere
with the quality of taste. Avoid grapefruits
that look extremely dull and lack color.
- Grapes provide
some fiber and come in several color varieties.
Look for rich-colored, plump grapes that are
tightly attached to the stem. Avoid grapes that
are shriveled and soft or that have brown, brittle
- Kiwi fruit provides
a lot of vitamin C and potassium. Look for plump
kiwi fruit that yields slightly to the touch;
this means it's ripe. You can ripen firm kiwi
fruit at home by leaving it at room temperature
for a few days. Avoid kiwi fruits that are super-soft
- Lemons provide
vitamin C. Look for firm lemons with a rich,
glossy yellow color. Avoid lemons with mold,
punctures, or a dull, dark yellow coloring.
- Mangos provide
vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. Look
for orangish-yellow to red mangos that are well
developed and barely soft to the touch. Avoid
mangos that are rock-hard or over-ripened and
- Nectarines provide
vitamin A and potassium. Look for bright-colored,
plump nectarines with orange, yellow, and red
color combinations. Nectarines that are hard
will ripen in a few days at room temperature.
Avoid nectarines that are overly soft, lacking
color, or show signs of decay.
- Oranges provide
a lot of vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid.
Look for firm, heavy oranges (because this indicates
juiciness) with relatively smooth, bright-looking
skin. Avoid oranges that are very light (no juice)
or that have thick, coarse, or spongy skins.
- Peaches provide
vitamin A and potassium. Look for peaches that
are firm but slightly soft to the touch. Avoid
greenish, hard peaches that are under-ripened
and mushy peaches that are over-ripened.
- Pears provide
potassium and fiber. Look for pears that are
firm, but not too hard. The color depends on
the variety. Bartletts are pale yellow to rich
yellow, Anjou or Comice are light green to yellowish
green, Bosc are greenish yellow to brownish yellow,
and Winter Nellis are medium to light green.
Avoid wilted or wrinkled pears with any distinct
- Pineapples provide
vitamin C and fiber. Look for pineapples that
are plump, firm, and heavy for their size and
that have a fragrant aroma. Avoid pineapples
that appear dull, bruised, or dried, or that
have an unpleasant smell.
- Raspberries provide
vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Look for plump,
tender berries with a rich, uniform scarlet color.
Avoid berries that are mushy or have any mold.
- Strawberries provide
a lot of vitamin C, along with potassium, folic
acid, and fiber. Look for firm, red berries that
still have the cap stem attached. Avoid berries
that have large uncolored or seedy areas. Also
avoid strawberries that have a shrunken appearance
or any mold.
- Tangerines provide
vitamins A and C. Look for deep yellow or orange
tangerines with a bright luster (which indicates
freshness and maturity). Avoid tangerines with
a pale yellow or greenish color or punctures
in the skin.
- Watermelon provides
vitamin A and some vitamin C. For uncut watermelons,
look for a smooth surface, well-rounded ends,
and a pale green color. For cut watermelons,
look for juicy flesh with a rich, red color that
is free from white streaks. Avoid melons with
a lot of white streaks running through pale colored
flesh and light colored seeds.