September is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. As we say goodbye to summer and all the fresh, seasonal produce it has to offer, it’s time to address which fruit and veggies are best. Oftentimes fresh produce is thought to be much better or more nutritious than canned or frozen produce but is there any truth to this? All fruits and vegetables are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. When fresh produce is out of season or unavailable, frozen and canned varieties are often convenient and affordable options.
Frozen fruits and veggies are harvested at peak ripeness and are frozen within a few hours. Because of this quick turnover, few nutrients are lost. The actual process of freezing may result in some losses but most research tells us that frozen produce is nutritionally similar to fresh produce.
- Tip – When purchasing frozen produce, it is important to read the ingredient label. Certain fruits may be preserved with added sugar so focus on selecting items that are not sweetened. When buying frozen veggies, try to steer clear of added sauces which can be high in saturated fat and sodium. Aim for plain, frozen vegetables that you can season at home.
Canned fruits and veggies are convenient options that don’t require freezing or refrigeration. Research says that most canned produce has a similar nutrient content to fresh and frozen options. Beyond nutrition, canned fruits and veggies have a longer shelf life, lower price, and high degree of food safety due to the way they are processed.
- Tip – Just like frozen produce, it’s important to watch for added sugar and salt. With canned vegetables, focus on selecting items with low-sodium, reduced-sodium or no-salt-added labels. If you can’t find low-sodium items, drain and rinse canned produce to help remove extra sodium. Look for fruits that are canned in water or “fruit juice”.
Fresh fruits and vegetables provide a convenient, portable option when available. Fresh produce can be particularly flavorful, nutritious and affordable when purchased in season. Because fresh vegetables and fruit don’t have added preservatives, they can spoil quickly and go to waste. For this reason, it can be helpful to have a planned recipes like this or use the Click n’ Cook website feature that allows you to find recipes based on the ingredients you already have at home!
A healthy diet includes a mix of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Eating frozen or canned produce is a great way to add nutrition to a meal with the same benefits as fresh often at a lower price. Rest assured that any produce is good and you can feel confident knowing that the best choice for you is one that is convenient, nutritious and full of flavor!
Written by Madeline McDonough, dietetic intern