Tag Archives: fruit

Our Favorite Smoothies on the Internet Today

Whether it’s the pressure of bathing suit season or all the beautiful tropical fruits out at the grocery store right now, we like to think of this as Smoothie Season! Strawberries, bananas and some ice cubes will get you there but why stop with the basics when the internet has so much more adventurous recipes to offer? Here are some of our favorite smoothies on the internet today! Continue reading

5 Nutrient-Packed Foods for Healthy Hair

de5de856512394ea_shutterstock_96575575.previewMany of us assume that buying the best shampoos and conditioners will be enough to keep our hair looking healthy. These products do help to repair existing hair damage but don’t do much to promote new hair growth and cannot replace essential vitamins that we may be missing from our diet. There are certain essential vitamins and minerals that our hair relies upon, and a lack of these is often the source of many hair growth problems. Some simple changes to our diet can really make a big difference to the look of our hair.

Modern lifestyles can also have an impact – a busy lifestyle, lack of sleep, or even pregnancy can seriously make a difference in our hair health. Vitamin supplements have  been proven to help, but if you are looking for the most natural sources of these vitamins then here is a list of 5 food types foods that can help to provide those essential vitamins your hair needs.

Fish

Many sources site that salmon is the number 1 super food for healthy hair. This is because it contains a great combination of essential substances that our hair simply loves. Omega 3 oils help maintain a well hydrated scalp, and many believe this is essential to maintaining healthy hair growth. Oily fish such as herring, mackerel and sardines are rich in omega-3, and salmon is also rich in Vitamin D which is great for your hair follicles.

If you are someone who doesn’t like eating fish then certain vegetable sources can be a great way to get the omega-3 you need. Rapeseed, flaxseed, soya beans, walnuts, almond and even tofu are all good sources of Omega-3.

Vegetables with Beta-carotene

Beta carotene is present in many vegetables and provides us with a great source of Vitamin A. For many people who suffer from dandruff a simple addition of vitamin A to their diet can help solve the problem. Vitamin A helps to promote sebum oil which is our body’s natural conditioner for our scalp. It can also help with hair growth problems as it is said to assist with oxygenating our scalp. Sweet potatoes are known to be one of the best sources, and other vegetables such as carrots, spinach, and broccoli are also recommended.

Oysters

Oysters are also recommended to help fight scalp problems such as dandruff. A lack of zinc in your diet may even be the cause of hair loss, and oysters have a particularly high zinc content. Zinc helps promote the level of androgens in our body, and for some people a low level of androgens has been directly linked to hair loss. Crab, liver and beef are also good sources of zinc.

Eggs and other biotin rich foods

Our hair is essentially built using protein, a nutrient that has been associated with speeding up hair growth. Protein can be found in many types of foods, but eggs are one of the best sources. Another important mineral in eggs is biotin, and those who have a biotin deficiency may suffer from brittle hair. To prevent this, biotin has been proven to be effective from both foods and supplements if needed. Kidney beans and nuts such as almonds and even peanuts are also good sources of biotin.

Fruit and vegetables with Vitamin C

Vitamin C is great for both our hair and skin. Vitamin C helps keep our blood vessels oxygenated, which in turn keeps our hair follicles healthy. Super fruits such as blueberries have a very high level of Vitamin C, and strawberries and citrus fruits are also good sources. Many vegetables such as green beans, spinach and broccoli are good sources, and the old-fashioned rule of eating colorful vegetables can give you a good indication of a high vitamin C content, as well.

You may have identified that one of these essential sources of vitamins is missing from your diet, and that may well be the cause of a particular problem. If you are concerned and believe you may have a nutrient deficiency then simple tests at your doctors can identify what vitamins and minerals you may be lacking. This Women’s Hair PDF can also help you to diagnose any hair health problems you may have!

The Desserty Secret: Eat Your Sugar With Fiber

appleIn nature, sugar always come in a fibrous package. Whole fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and beans all contain both sugar and fiber. When the sugar and the fiber work together, all is right in your body. The sugar, in the form of glucose, is an essential nutrient. Not only does it give us quick energy, glucose is needed by every cell in your body for proper functioning. The fiber’s role is to slow the sugars rate of absorption, thereby giving us a sustained release of energy. Like Batman and Robin, sugar and fiber are a perfect duo.

So What’s the Problem?

The problem occurs when sugar is consumed without fiber. When sugar enters your bloodstream without the fiber to slow the rate of absorption, then the pancreas, which is the organ that regulates the blood sugar levels, is forced to produce insulin to bring the sugar levels down. This fluctuation in blood sugar levels creates stress in the body and can lead to diabetes and heart disease. It also interrupts the absorption of calcium and magnesium, which are both essential minerals for bone strength a proper nerve function.

So Where is the Fiber?

Fiber is the hard shell of grains and beans and the meat of fruits and vegetables. Fiber is an annoyance to food manufacturers. It is perishable so it creates a shorter shelf life, and it makes things take longer to cook. How could we microwave our dinner in 3 minutes if we have to cook that pesky fiber? So, what food manufacturers do is strip the fiber away from the food in order to make it more convenient for us. Bread lasts longer when made with refined flours, processed foods can sit on the shelf for months or years without  problem, and rice can take only a minute to cook.  Juice is easier to drink than actually eating an apple, so just drink your fruit. Nice right?

Sugar Robbers

The problem with all of this convenience is that it is causing mayhem in our bodies. Sugar in the body, without fiber, is like the Tasmanian devil, swirling and whirling and generally creating chaos. The fiber, which acts like a cop, is not there to tame the devil, so insulin levels shoot up, and we go on a sugar-fueled roller coaster ride. This effects us in so many ways. As mentioned above, it creates a huge amount of stress on the body. Because there is no fiber to slow the rate of absorption of the sugar, we get a huge rush of sugar followed by the inevitable crash. This wreaks havoc not only on our bodies but on our emotions as well. Have you ever witnessed the aftermath of a child’s sugar-high? It almost always ends in tears.

truffles2The Solution?

Always eat your sugars with fiber. I make a point in all of my cooking to ensure that I keep the dynamic duo together. The chocolate cake I bake is made with ground almond flour, stone ground millet, spinach and avocado. The frosting is made with fiber-rich coconut milk. The cookies are made with stone ground garbanzo beans and almonds, and the to-die-for chocolate truffles, which you will swear are the most decadent chocolate deliciousness ever, are made with dates and cashews. I have many, many more recipes on my site that maintain this same simple principle.

By incorporating these fibers into our sweet treats, we don’t need to give up our great love of sugar. Rather, if we make sure to eat fiber in combination with sugar,  we can have a happy mouth AND a healthy body.

 

Originally published on my website, Tapp’s Tips

8 Ways to Beat June Gloom

Singin' in the rainOkay, so judging by this map “June gloom” is obviously only a reality for several parts of the country this weekend. But for those of you in Southern California, New England, and the Great Lakes regions, it may be hard to feel excited about summer when the sky is still so grey and some of those clouds are still a-storming. But guess what? It’s time to kick June gloom in the behind and forge ahead with full summery glory! ‘Cause we didn’t make it this far into the year for nothing, right?

Here are 8 fun, alternative summertime activities to indulge in this weekend – clouds, sunshine, rain, fog, or whatever the weather brings:

  1. Have a summer fruits and veggies feast! Regardless of the temperature outside, this season always packs a cornucopia of delicious, sweet, tangy delights, from berries to plums to avocados to corn on the cob. Summer can basically be summed up in the taste of biting into a big, juicy peach and letting your fingers get all sticky. After you finish devouring that peach, use the rest of your bounty for this decadent ginger peach pandowdy, courtesy of Witchin’ in the Kitchen.
  2. Drop in on your local weekend farmer’s market. Nearly every city has got one these days, and the farmer’s are always there – rain or shine! The overflowing tables of fruits, vegetables, juices, cheeses, and more will be like a colorful shot of energy to your senses. Here’s a guide on summer farmer’s market shopping to help you make the most of your visit.
  3. Eat something spicy to warm yourself inside out. This works on both sides of the spectrum, whether you’re in balmy south or the cool Northwest. Hot, spicy food can actually work to cool the body through perspiration and increased circulation – so add some chipotle to your pasta salad if you’re trying to counter hot weather. If your among the June gloom sufferers, though, then try a spicy chili or something equally warm and invigorating!
  4. Get some active outdoors time. No need to worry about the summer chill when you’re running around and having a good time! Get your friends together for a game of ultimate Frisbee, flag football, or even hide and seek – whatever will get you moving, laughing, and letting loose in true summer fashion.
  5. Plan a trip. Nothing says summer like a good adventure. Set some time aside – even just a long weekend – for a trip, near or far, to get out of your daily routine and explore. Take a road trip, visit relatives in a different state, go camping, go fishing, go abroad if you can! Indulge that summer wanderlust while the season’s still here.
  6. Go to the beach, have a picnic, turn on the barbeque. Do you think the Beach Boys never surfed when there a bit of mist in the air? Sometimes the best outdoor excursions are the ones that find you huddled in blankets, munching on sandy snacks, and cuddling with your loved ones. A bit of fog makes the scene all the more romantic.
  7. Blast summer music through your windows! This one might seem a bit cruel to the neighbors, but if you’re down from June gloom then they undoubtedly are, too. We already mentioned the Beach Boys, but whatever bands signify summer to you are the best ones to crank on days when you need a mood pick-me-up. What are your favorite summer songs?
  8. Do something creative. Similar to how spicy foods can warm you from the inside out, engaging in a creative project will get the good vibes flowing through your imagination-circulation. So while you’re blasting those summer tunes, spread out your art supplies and draw a picture, make a collage, or paint a picture of sunshine to hang over your bed.

Basically, whatever your child self would have gotten giddy over in anticipation of summer vacation, now is the time to indulge in those delights. Gloominess is a state of mind that you can overcome by doing the things you love and being your own source of warmth and sunshine, regardless of how the sky looks outside. Have a wonderful weekend, and don’t let the grey get you down!

What are your favorite summertime activities?

20 Natural Disease Fighters in Fruit (infographic)

We all know fruit is good for us. It’s a whole food, comes in its own packaging, and is naturally sweet and delicious.

But the hidden health benefits of fruit sometimes get taken for granted. Did you know that blueberries are No. 1 in antioxidants? Or that lemon helps prevent diabetes? That mangos can help protect your vision?

The list of health benefits is endless. Take your pick below and whip up some delicious smoothies, make a big colorful salad, or satisfy that sweet craving with a wholesome, natural dessert.

7 Ways to Enjoy Overripe Fruit

When it comes to fruit, I’m a texture girl—it has to be a certain level of ripeness or I want no part of it. Even slightly mushy fruit makes me gag, to the point where I’d eat a green banana over a dark brown one. Unfortunately, in my excitement over delicious and plentiful fruit at the farmers’ market, I often buy more than I can finish before it rots and becomes inedible. But thanks to having a variety of techniques for dealing with overripe fruit at my disposal, I no longer have to toss it out and feel the subsequent wave of wasteful guilt.

How Long Does It Last?
Fruits have varying lengths of shelf life, depending on the season and storage environment. If it’s warmer outside, fruit tends to ripen faster; cold temperatures stretch out the process. For example, if apples are put in the fridge or in a similarly cool place, they can last for over a month. If bananas have a greenish tint when purchased (which means they’re under ripe), they can last about a week before turning black.
Berries don’t last as long as their fruit friends. Even when refrigerated, strawberries last a week at the most; three days is usually more common. Refrigerated blueberries stay fresh for about one to two weeks.Stone fruit like peaches, nectarines, and plums lasts a few days at room temperature. They soften as they ripen, so one that gives a little under slight pressure from the thumb is at the perfect stage.
Tasty Ideas for Overripe Fruit

Overripe fruit isn’t for everybody, but according to a 2007 study conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, the amount of antioxidants in fruits grows as they get closer to spoiling. So while mushy fruits might not be palatable eaten straight, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by throwing out these nutrient powerhouses. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to use up the fruit without having to gag it down.
1. Freeze it for later.
Freezing fruit stops it from ripening any more and provides a great base for making smoothies or popsicles later. All you need is a bunch of fruit, liquid (juice, water, milk, or non-dairy beverages work), and a blender. If you don’t have a blender, don’t worry—some fruit, like blueberries and grapes, makes a delicious treat when eaten frozen. Stick a popsicle stick into a banana, cover it with chocolate, pop it in the freezer, and in a few hours, a refreshing, simple dessert will be waiting for you. Since the fruit can always be thawed for non-icy purposes later, the possibilities are endless.
2. Make delectable jams and chutneys.
Spreading jam on a piece of toast or topping naan bread with chutney is even more satisfying knowing you made it yourself. There are lots of recipes online for preserving fruits, but basically, you boil the mashed-up fruit of your choice, add pectin (the amount depends on the recipe), ladle the mixture into clean mason jars, and put a lid on them.
3. Up the tastiness quotient of baked goods.
Fruit’s sweetness increases as it ripens, making overripe fruits a terrific addition to baked goods. Bananas with black peels are essential for truly great banana bread; mashed-up bananas also make a good one-to-one substitution for oil in recipes if you’d like a lower-fat product. Really, you can add pretty much any fruit into a quick bread, muffin, or pancake recipe, but bananas and blueberries are probably the most versatile. A blend of overripe fruits also makes for a great pie filling.
4. Create your own fruit roll ups.
I like to think of it as “fruit jerky,” but whatever you call it, dried fruit is yummy and fun to eat. A food dehydrator makes quick work of drying out fruit mixtures, but using an oven is a viable option, too. Puree the fruit, add whatever liquids or spices you prefer, roll it onto a baking sheet, and bake until it’s to the desired texture. Do a search online for more specific recipes.
5. Make a sweet topping for savory main dishes.
Simply combine the fruit of your choice with various herbs, seasonings, oils, and vinegars and you’ve got a perfect topping for meats, tofu, seitan, and so forth. This also makes a fine salad dressing.
You Don’t Always Have to Eat It
If the thought of eating overripe fruit is too distasteful, there are non-edible methods of using it up, too.
6. Put it on your face.
Mixing fruits with ingredients like oatmeal, honey, egg yolks, avocado, and milk creates facial masks that work wonders for your skin. (Just try not to eat the batter!)
7. Add it to plants for fertilizing purposes.

Rotting fruit provides lots of important nutrients for plants, so mix it with the soil for a less stinkyfertilizer.
Regardless of which method you utilize, it’s clear that there’s no reason to throw fruit away just because it’s too soft for eating. On the contrary, it only enhances your taste buds’ experience in certain cases, such as when making smoothies or baked goodies. So the next time you’re left with a bowl of rotten strawberries or spotted bananas, remember that fruit is an all-around winner—even when it’s gone bad, it’s still good!
 
For the month of July, Intent Blog is launching its annual 30 Days of Recipes. Everyday for the next 30 days, we’ll feature recipes contributed by bloggers in the health and wellness sphere. Our intent is to encourage you to get back into the kitchen and re-connect with your food in a way that promotes greater health, happiness and well-being! This week, we’re focusing on the connection between eating and the earth. If you have a recipe to contribute, please send it to us (along with a brief story about why you love it)  at editor [at] intent.com.
photo by: Linda Cronin

Fruit: The Fresh Facts And Why You Should Eat More Of Them

Fruits are an important part of a healthy diet.   They are naturally low in calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol. Fruits play an important role in keeping the body healthy and have many benefits, including:

Fruits Lower Risk of Illness and Disease: Fruits contain many vitamins and nutrients that may reduce risk for many illnesses including:

  • Stroke, heart disease and other heart-related illnesses

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Certain cancers, such as mouth, stomach, and colon-rectum cancer.

  • Kidney stones

  • Bone loss

 Fruits Hydrate The Body: Fruits are made up of 90% — 95% water.  Water is an important nutrient. It is responsible for transporting nutrients around the body, regulating body temperature, keeping joints moist, and getting rid of waste products in the body.

Fruits Keep The Body Regular: Fruits are rich in fiber, which is essential for the smooth movement of food in the body’s digestive system. Fruits help maintain easy bowel action and eating fruits every day will prevent constipation.

Fruits Give The Body Energy: All fruits contain carbohydrates, which are the body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates in fruits are mainly sugar which break down easily and make a quick source of energy.

SUPER FRUITS:

All fruits are healthy to eat, but some fruits are special. We’ll call these “super fruits” because they contain really high amounts of vitamins and nutrients. 

   

Vitamin/Nutrient

 

Excellent Source

Contains at least 20% of the Daily Value per serving

 

Good Source

Contains at least 10% of the Daily Value per serving

Vitamin A

Mango

Papaya

Vitamin B6

Banana

 

Other B Vitamins

 

Avocado

Vitamin C

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

Mango

 

Orange

 

Papaya

Strawberry

 

Apple

 

Blueberries

 

Cantaloupe

Starfruit

Folic Acid

Avocado

Cantaloupe

Potassium

 

Avocado

 

Banana

 

Cantaloupe

 

Cherry (sour)

 

Dates

Kiwi Fruit

 

Apple

 

Blueberries

 

Cherry (sweet)

 

Grapes

 

Orange

 

Papaya

 

Peach

 

Pomegranate

 

Strawberry


Vitamin A: Vital for vision, particularly night vision; Repairs tissue and bone; and Helps the immune system to fight off infections from bacteria and viruses

Vitamin B6

Vitamin C is important for growth and repair of all body tissues, helps heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy.

Potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure.

Folic acid helps the body form red blood cells.

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food Basics: Homemade Baby Food in Less Than 30 Minutes Per Week and So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com to learn about her latest creation, the Kid’s Portion Plate.

5 Tips To Battle Your Neighborhood’s Food Desert

I know what you’re thinking: What the heck is a food desert?!

Well, it’s nearly exactly what it sounds like: a barren wasteland without any nutritional value. Sure, there’s the corner KFC/Pizza Hut/Green Burrito combo, Little Caesar’s touting its famous five dollar large cheese pizzas down the street and Applebee’s claiming to be what’s good in your neighborhood town square but there are no grocery stores in sight. Unfortunately, many urban areas are food deserts and many people think that the fact that they can walk to their local chain food joint makes it okay but it doesn’t. A roundtrip two mile walk won’t cancel out your Bloomin’ Onion, honey, or what you think is a "healthy" salad from Wendy’s. The fat content out weighs what would be an awesome way to burn a couple calories.

(Side note: check out WalkScore to see how walkable your neighborhood or next neighborhood is!)

Sound like your neighborhood? It’s not surprising considering many urban areas just flat out don’t have the real estate to build supermarkets. Unfortunately, these food deserts are one of the biggest contributors to America’s obesity problems.

Here are some tips to battle not only the food desert but also help keep your community locally sustainable, which as the times get harder, is becoming more and more important! Although it may take a little extra effort than walking the block to the local convenience store, it’s much healthier for you and your community. And once you go fresh, you can’t go back! I hope these help you kick the humdrum hamburgers and artery clogging Chulupas! 



1. Cook At Home.

Alright, look, this is coming from the girl who manages to ruin Mac ‘N Cheese and I realize some of us just aren’t culinary prodigies but that doesn’t mean you have to resign to eating double cheeseburger combos. Start small and search online for simple recipes of things you enjoy and pair it with a salad (even I can dice some tomatoes!). You’ll be surprised how the internet will become your waist line’s best friend.

2. Visit Farmer’s Markets.

Many urban areas have weekly farmers markets where you can pick up from local growers. These local growers usually produce all organic items and you’ll also get a chance to support your local economy.

3. Sign up for CSA (community supported agriculture).

CSA is something I personally just signed up for in my neighborhood and it is awesome! How it works is you sign up for a pick up spot in your neighborhood and weekly or bi-weekly, you pick up a huge bag of locally grown fruit and vegetables. There are pick up spots across the nation and you can check out one near you and sign up at Local Harvest. I personally love CSA because it’s incredibly convenient and also, the variety of produce they give you can inspire some incredible new recipes in the kitchen. For example, last week my boyfriend and myself had a huge bushel of kale left in our bag and he turned it into a great pesto! I never would have thought of making kale pesto but it was delicious! The random bags of produce has made our meals more creative and fresh. Not only that, two dollars of every bag is donated to our local school district! If my personal stories haven’t made you want to check it out, here are some of the other benefits of CSA, from Local Harvest:

 

Advantages for farmers:
  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

 

 

4. Shop The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store.

It’s hard not to visit chain supermarkets from time to time these days but it doesn’t mean you have to pick up a bunch of chemical laden frozen foods or sugary snacks. Stick to the perimeter of your grocery store, where you’ll find your produce, dairy and meat sections. When you can, buy foods that are labeled organic or local and with meat, stick to grass fed beefs and fresh fish.

5. Grow Your Own.

Start small with some tomato plants and some fresh herbs and you’ll be surprised at not only how easy it is but how rewarding it is picking your own produce. Not only that, but in a day and age where an ungodly percentage of us are mostly sedentary in our jobs, it feels so good to get outside and put your hands in some dirt! You never know, you might just find your next hobby!

Organically Raised – Why, How, and Mmmmmm….

 I’m not sure if it’s the photo accompanying the section entitled ‘Nirvana,’ India’s baby cupcakes, or mama mantra recommended to be displayed in one’s kitchen, but altogether this cookbook / guide delivers on the health trifecta: great taste, nutrient-dense, doable. 

With recent research pointing out the lasting health threats of chemicals used in food production, fear and frustration  seem to dominate many conversations  about food ingredients, products and ‘should-do’s’ for new parents, grandparents and caregivers.  It’s so refreshing to open up a book that speaks to the beauty, freshness, ease and love that can make feeding a new child a rewarding adventure for the whole family.



Organically Raised inspires.  With sub-headings like ‘the adventurous eater’ and ‘ the Cultural Café’ this book embraces all, from the most novice kitchen food preparer, to persons of all socio-economic levels (pointing out how cooking and especially breast milk are cost-effective and healthIER options), and invites the whole family unit to participate in raising a new baby or toddler, organically (let me be clear: there isn’t a dish in there – even the purees – that any adult and even a curious older brother or sister wouldn’t find delicious).

On a serious note, Daulter tackles one of the biggest issues of our time: conscious eating.  For those with a newborn, newborns, toddlers or a crew of all the above, I give them the most slack when it comes to choosing convenience.  Many parents will describe the early days as ‘sleep walking’ or ‘sleep feeding’ through life.  However, from what experts like Dr Alan Greene (drgreene.com) teach us, those early weeks, months, and years are when food exposure matters the most.  I love Anni’s ‘mindfulness tips’for their ability to remind us in the hectic moments that convenience that sacrifices health is a lose-lose for us all.

Take time to get a copy of Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies and Toddlers by Anni Daulter (Rodale 2010) – what a treat! 

 

Don’t Let Good Produce Go Bad: Tips For Storing And Freezing Your Fruits and Vegetables

Every Saturday morning, I go shopping at the San Francisco Ferry Building farmer’s market, and I always go home with a dizzying array of colorful peppers, perfect peaches, gorgeous greens, and a host of other things I can’t wait to cook over the course of the week. Sure enough though, by Wednesday afternoon, my kitchen is always covered with greenish, mushy lumps formerly known as my dinner. I toss the wilted, moldy masses in the compost bin and sigh, “Well, there’s another ten bucks down the drain.”

Cooking with fresh produce is satisfying, whether it’s from a farmer’s market or a neighborhood grocery store, but trying to use it all before it goes bad can drive a person crazy. It seems that so many things I buy end up going bad before I have a chance to use them, and that’s money right down the drain. Making everything last through the week doesn’t take superhuman feats of kale coddling; it just takes more commonsense shopping habits and more efficient storage techniques.

Veggies, Veggies Everywhere … But What to Do with Them?

One of the greatest temptations of the market is just to buy whatever looks tasty, but what’s a shopper to do when everything looks good? With every vendor offering samples and freebies to entice you to buy, it’s not hard to go home with a random assortment of vegetables without any plan or timeline for how to utilize them. One of the best things to do to minimize produce waste is to come up with a meal plan—and stick to it. Knowing what you’d like to cook keeps you on track to buy only the things you need, and not just the things that sound good now. <p>

Once you have a rough idea of your meals, arrange them so that the most perishable items get used right away, and let sturdier veggies wait until the end of the week. Cook leafy greens, corn in the husk, and fresh herbs right away. Potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, leeks, garlic, broccoli, and bell peppers can last longer without going bad. Thin-skinned fruits like peaches, plums, or apricots often only last a few days, but fruits with a rind or husk like pomegranates, citrus fruits, and avocados are hardier. When buying meat, pay attention to how it’s packaged to determine how long it will keep. Any meat (especially seafood) that’s wrapped in plain paper from a deli counter or that arrives in a baggie should be used within a day or two. Vacuum-sealed products will last longer, usually up to a week.

Having a meal plan also helps you to know how ripe your produce needs to be throughout the week. Only buy ripe produce for meals you’ll cook within a day or two of shopping. For subsequent meals, buy vegetables that are still slightly green or a bit firm. For example, don’t buy perfectly ripe avocados on Monday if you’re planning to make guacamole on Saturday. Buy under-ripe ones and allow them to mature at home. Although it’s tempting to buy only the most perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables, buying items that haven’t reached their peak can minimize waste.

Cool It with the Refrigerator

Once you get your vegetables home, how you store them has a huge effect on their longevity. Grocery stores minimize food loss by keeping their items perfectly preserved until purchase, and some of their techniques can be replicated at home. As long as you don’t live in a hot or arid climate, most produce should be stored at room temperature, not in the refrigerator. Storing food in the refrigerator stops the ripening process, and can damage its flavor and texture. Keep the majority of produce out on the kitchen counter, away from light and heat, and never store food in a sealed bag—make sure that plastic bags are perforated, or better yet, keep produce in ventilated bowls or in brown paper bags. Sealing food in bags can cause food to rot because of the carbon dioxide buildup in the bag.

In addition, fruit produces ethylene gas, which speeds ripening, so separate fruits from vegetables to prevent the fruit from causing a chemical reaction that makes the veggies rot more quickly. Apples are the main producers of ethylene (with the exception of Granny Smith and Fuji varieties), but all fruit produces the gas in some quantity. Tomatoes, mushrooms, and potatoes should always remain on the counter in a bowl or brown paper bag, and onions and garlic should be stored in the open, to allow ventilation and prevent rotting.

Fruit can start out on the counter, but once ripe, moving it into the refrigerator will keep it at its peak for a few more days. Avocadoes, peaches, plums, pluots, and pears can ripen on their own before being refrigerated. Some experts recommend refrigerating apples right away, to keep them from becoming mealy or ripening too fast.

Some vegetables can tolerate the refrigerator right from the start, as long as the temperature is between 32 and 36° F. The “crisper” drawer is intended to be the most humid place of the refrigerator, which vegetables love. If your crisper allows for humidity control, make sure it’s set for about 95 percent, and keep carrots, celery, herbs like basil or dill, and lettuce in the drawer. Cut the green stems off carrots or other root vegetables right away, because they can leach moisture. Lettuce is one of the few foods that can be washed before storage. Rinse it in cold water and store tightly wrapped in a plastic bag.

For most other perishable foods, don’t wash until right before you use them, because extra moisture on fruits and vegetables can cause them to rot more quickly. If your crisper has no humidity control or doesn’t provide enough moisture, feel free to take out the drawers and use the extra space for other products, and when you need to store vegetables, just keep them on one of the top shelves, which are usually a bit warmer and moister than the rest of the refrigerator. Wilted or wrinkly vegetables are usually a sign of deficient humidity, and discoloration and browning are usually a sign of chill damage, so adjust your refrigerator accordingly.

In a perfect world, we’d all have the money and time to browse through the market, leisurely planning the day’s meal. In reality, most of us have to stock up for the week, risking that some items won’t survive to be enjoyed. Better planning and better storage can maximize the amount of fresh foods that we eat, while minimizing the amount of food (and money) we toss away.

By Alison Ford for DivineCaroline.com

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