The #1 Mistake You're Making When Buying Fruits & Vegetables
Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Jessica Ball keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make Earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.
Fruits and vegetables are great for many reasons: they can help lower inflammation, up your fiber intake and support organs from your brain to your gut. But many of us aren't getting enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that roughly 90% of Americans aren't reaching the suggested five servings a day. Part of this disconnect starts in the grocery store. Though we can begin our shop with the best intentions, some challenges can arise in the produce section. Fresh produce can be expensive, difficult to prepare and goes bad quickly (which can lead to wasted food and money).
We all want our dollar to go as far as possible at the grocery, especially when facing inflation. The biggest mistake you could be making is choosing fruits and vegetables that you don't actually like to eat. It might seem overly simple, but a key part of a healthy and sustainable eating pattern is including foods you enjoy. Plus, avoiding the fruits and vegetables you bought can lead to food waste, and wasting money and resources too.
Fruits and vegetables come in so many different sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. Instead of trying to suffer through eating something you don't enjoy, try something different until you find produce you're excited to buy and use. For example, try chard, collards or mustard greens, if kale isn't your thing. You can even get similar nutrients from dark green vegetables like broccoli or brussels sprouts. Not into apples? Get a boost of fiber from other fruits like peaches, plums, pears or oranges. You should never feel the need to skip your favorite kinds of produce in lieu of a "healthier" option—variety is the name of the game when it comes to eating healthy.
Some people find chopping and prepping vegetables a meditative task, but I'll admit it does take extra time. If it's something that keeps you out of the kitchen, there are so many options to make your meal prep quicker and easier. For instance, opt for canned or frozen vegetables that cook more quickly. Another option is to buy pre-cut or spiralized vegetables that take out any prep work you dread.
Long story short, part of a healthy eating pattern is choosing the foods you know you'll enjoy, and fruits and vegetables are no exception. Before your next grocery trip, make a list of things you (and your household) will look forward to eating during the week. Once in the produce section, choose a preparation style that works for your schedule and comfort level. And don't forget about canned and frozen options, too.