Nutritious Fruits and Vegetables for a Healthy Diet - dummies

Nutritious Fruits and Vegetables for a Healthy Diet

By Jane Kirby, The American Dietetic Association

Fruits and vegetables are almost free foods for dieters. But eating healthfully means more than counting calories. Vitamins and mineral nutrients are important, too. Want to get more nutrition out of your fruits and vegetables? Follow these tips:

  • In general, the darker the color, the higher the nutrient content. Dark salad greens, such as spinach, watercress, and arugula contain more nutrients than pale ones, such as iceberg lettuce. Deep orange- or red-fleshed fruit, such as mangoes, melon, papaya, and oranges, are richer in vitamins C and A than pears and bananas, but pears and bananas are especially good sources of potassium and fiber.

  • For the best buy and best flavor, get fresh fruits and vegetables while they’re in season. Otherwise, canned or frozen forms processed without added sugar, fats, or sauces are a good choice.

  • Fresh produce doesn’t carry nutrient labels; look for nutrition fliers or posters in the produce department for specifics. If prepared without sauces, butter, or added sugar, most fruits weigh in at less than 60 calories per 1/2 cup serving. Most vegetables contain a mere 25 calories per 1/2 cup cooked serving or per 1 cup raw.

  • Most fresh produce is virtually fat free, with the exception of avocado and coconut.

  • Shop the salad bar when you need ingredients for a recipe but don’t purchase more than you can use at one time. Cut ingredients will lose nutrients faster than whole foods. Cut produce in bags is packaged in special material that cuts down on moisture loss and, therefore, nutrient loss, too.

  • Prebagged salad is a staple in every supermarket. Buy the salad that’s packaged without dressing packets or garnishes. (These items are high in fat and calories.) And for a longer shelf life at home, buy bags of single variety lettuces and create your own mix. Fragile leaves in salad blends can spoil quickly, ruining the whole bag.

  • Dried fruits are a healthy, high-fiber snack food, but because most of the water has been removed from them, the nutrients are concentrated and the calories are higher. Keep an eye on serving size.

  • Many dried fruits, especially bananas, cranberries, and dates, have sugar added to them.