Monday, May 04, 2009

Stock Your Freezer with Fruits and Vegetables

Learn why keeping plenty of frozen produce on hand is such a good idea. By Laurie Saloman Is fresh produce always better? In the summertime, when peaches, plums, tomatoes and berries of all kinds are at their peak, there’s nothing like hitting the local farmers market and bringing home salad fixings picked just that day or the day before. But in colder weather, when many foods are out of season, you should consider buying some of your favorites in frozen form. In fact, some experts maintain that frozen produce actually is more nutritious than fresh produce because it’s flash frozen very soon after being picked, sometimes within hours. Those fresh apples or pears you’re eyeing in the supermarket may look fine, but if they were picked days ago and traveled a long way to get to the store, they may already have lost a significant percentage of their nutritional value. If you’re committed to upping the amount of fruits and vegetables you and your family consume—and you should be—definitely take a stroll down the freezer aisle. In particular, bulk or warehouse stores offer significant value in the form of multi-pound bags of vegetables and fruits. You can even find convenient mixes, such as a medley of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries—or stir-fry basics such as carrots, snow peas, and water chestnuts. But before you buy, consider this information from the American Dietetic Association: Read on for tips for buying frozen fruits and vegetables. •Some frozen vegetables come with buttery or cheesy sauces. Buy veggies plain, or look specifically for those with low-fat sauces. You can create your own low-calorie toppings at home. Also be wary of vegetables with added salt. •Frozen fruits are often sweetened. Find the ones without added sugars or syrups. They’re perfect for blending into smoothies or as a yummy oatmeal topper. •If you buy too much fresh produce and want to freeze it, pack it properly. Use containers made especially for freezers, such as freezer bags and freezer tape. This will keep your food airtight and help it last longer. And make sure your freezer is set no higher than 0 degrees Fahrenheit. •Blanch vegetables before freezing them to lengthen their freezer life. Simply plunge them into boiling water for one to three minutes, and then put them into cold water. Then drain well and freeze. •Rotate your frozen foods so the oldest foods are used first. Although frozen produce commonly lasts months, eventually it will lose some nutritional value. Got a bag of veggies you don’t know what to do with? Throw it into a chicken or tomato broth for a hearty, healthful meal starter. Article courtesy of Quality Health

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