Have you eaten 4 ½ cups each of fruits and vegetables today? The American Heart Association recommends filling at least half your plate with fruits and veggies in order to make it to the recommended 4 ½ cups of each per day. The good news is that all produce counts, which means canned, fresh and frozen varieties can help you reach your goal. Here’s how to pick the best of the bunch:
- Canned fruits & veggies are convenient to have in your pantry for times you can’t get to the store; they can even be kept at work (with a can opener) for an afternoon snack. Since they are non-perishable, you won’t waste money when buying canned veggies – which sometimes happens with fresh produce that goes bad.
- Watch for: Sodium is usually added to canned foods to safely preserve. Look for low sodium, reduced sodium, or no-salt-added labeled foods, compare the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts panel and choose the product with the lowest sodium content. Drain and rinse canned veggies to reduce more sodium. In fact, draining and rinsing canned beans can reduce the sodium by up to 40%. Look for fruit that’s canned in light syrup (drain and rinse) or natural fruit juice.
- Delicious uses: Add cans of corn, tomatoes and pinto beans or any other vegetable to fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth for a super fast and filling vegetable soup. Use a blender, food processor or a fork to smash a rinsed can of garbanzo beans, northern beans, or any beans into a bean dip for baby carrots; add a little lemon juice and garlic powder for some zip. Serve canned fruit as a dessert topped with fat-free, no added sugar yogurt; or top whole grain cereal with canned fruit.
- Frozen fruits & vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and then flash frozen to preserve optimal nutrition. They last for several months in the freezer and can be a very economical choice.
- Watch for: Choose plain frozen vegetables without sauces or seasonings - which contain added salt and extra calories. Avoid frozen fruits with any added sugars.
- Delicious uses: Any time you boil pasta, throw in some frozen veggies at the end of the cooking time for added nutrients and variety to a basic bowl of noodles. Whip up a smoothie of frozen fruit, low-fat or non-fat milk and yogurt in a blender until smooth. Mix frozen berries into pancakes, waffles or muffins.
- Fresh fruits & vegetables are the most portable choices. Whenever you leave the house, get into the habit of stashing a fresh snack in your purse or backpack; think: apple, orange, banana, or plastic bag of grapes or baby carrots. These snacks will energize you and help you avoid less-healthy (and more expensive) snacks at vending machines.
- Watch for: Buy in season for savings. In fall, look for apples, pears, grapes, cauliflower, and broccoli. Winter is the time for citrus fruit and root vegetables. In the spring, look for strawberries, asparagus and peas and come summertime, almost everything is in season!
- Delicious uses: Always top pizza with extra vegetables. Serve unfamiliar veggies with a fat-free, no added sugar yogurt dip as snacks to kids and adults when they are most hungry. Serve a colorful fruit salad for dessert.
Article copyright © 2014 American Heart Association. This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.