With the MyPlate food guidelines stating that we should be eating half of our plate in vegetables and fruit, a lot of families are struggling to find enough fresh produce to fill the bill.
Perhaps it's the area, the hard winter, or just the lack of variety that is causing families to miss this important food group. If your family is faced with limited fresh produce, what can you do?
The answer may be in the freezer section of the grocery store. Yes, frozen fruits and vegetables could fill the gap.
It wasn't long ago that “fresh” was the word. We saw it in our healthy eating promotions which constantly stated “4 to 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.”
This caused some confusion for families not able to find fresh produce. Do we just skip it or is frozen better than nothing?
Let's take a look at some simple facts about fresh and frozen produce.
When it's time to harvest and ship fresh vegetables and fruit to your grocery store, it would be unwise to pick the produce at the peak of their ripeness.
Once the produce is loaded onto the trucks, there is travel time to consider. If you live some distance from an agricultural area, you may not see that produce for a week or longer.
If you have local farms, you may find fruit and vegetables that are harvested at peak ripeness. However, if you do not live in an agricultural area, your grocery store's shelves may be filled with produce that is weeks old.
During transportation, fresh produce is exposed to not only time, but some of the elements. Cold, heat, light, and air can all be detrimental to the nutrition and flavor of produce.
With frozen food, produce is picked during peak ripeness, then processed immediately. This locks in nutrients and flavor, to some degree.
Of course, the simple fact is the processing alone can cause some nutrients to be lost, although every effort is made to flash freeze the produce to maintain the quality.
Buying frozen fruits and vegetables takes the guess work out of choosing quality produce. Food manufacturers pride themselves on taking produce fresh from the farm to flash freezing to air-tight packaging. You won't find spoilage or under-ripe produce in the freezer section, as a rule.
Frozen food may also suffer some of the drawbacks of transportation. If the frozen produce isn't kept at a very cold level, there could be some thawing, causing the product to lose quality.
Or, once it gets to the grocery store, the frozen food section may not be cold enough. So, just because fruits and vegetables are frozen at peak levels, the transporting and storing may still have some hiccups that cause problems.
Both fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables have nutritional value. If you are unable to get fresh, high quality produce from a nearby agricultural area, you may be better off with frozen. It's sort of a toss up.
Fresh may be picked and shipped at less than optimum ripeness, and the freezing process may remove some of the nutrients.
However, if I were going to choose, I would choose both. Sometimes fresh is best, when in season, and sometimes frozen works out well. The idea is to add nutrition to your plate, and either fresh or frozen does the job.
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