Eating more fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest ways to positively influence your health and reduce the risk of many leading causes of death. However, despite these powerful reasons to pack your plate with produce, nine out of 10 adults fall short of the daily recommendation which is at least 3 1/2 cups for women and 5 cups for men.
One common reason people don’t meet this goal is because they lack confidence with selecting fruits and vegetables and fear having to throw them away. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with this guide to easily identify favorite varieties of ripe and ready-to-eat produce during your next grocery trip. Our guide will also help you make smarter purchases so you don’t waste food, something Smart Lifebites is passionate about.
A Fruit & Vegetable Selection Guide
How they look: Shiny with smooth skin and an intact stem.
How they feel/smell: Firm and fresh smelling, not musty.
How to store: Refrigerate away from aromatic foods (think onions and garlic) for up to three weeks.
How it looks: Firm stalks with dry and tight tips.
How it feels/smells: Fresh smelling without wilting.
How to store: Wrap ends of stalks with a wet paper towel and refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to four days.
How it looks: Dark, firm skin that’s free of dents or soft spots. An avocado with a greenish hue may need to ripen further.
How it feels/smells: Gives to gentle pressure.
How to store: At room temperature and eat within a day or two. Or refrigerate ripe avocados for several days to preserve ripeness and prevent spoilage.
How they look: Bright color to the stem end and free of bruising or mold. Berries don’t ripen further once picked.
How they feel/smell: Plump and firm, not mushy, with a sweet and fruity aroma.
How to store: Refrigerate and wash just before eating to prevent them from molding. Eat within a few days.
How they look: Vibrant, smooth skin without cuts or soft spots.
How they feel/smell: Fresh smelling and heavy for size. May ‘give’ a little when gently squeezed.
for up to two days or refrigerate for up to two weeks.
How they look: Smooth and shiny skin with a fresh green stem and leaves.
How they feel/smell: Heavy for their size and gives slightly when gently pressed.
How to store: In the refrigerator crisper drawer and eat within five to seven days.
How it looks: The sun-kissed color of the skin is not a good indicator of ripeness.
How it feels/smells: Gives to gentle pressure and has a slightly fruity flavor at the stem end.
How to store: At room temperature for about one to two days. Refrigerate peeled, cut mangos for up to five days.
How it looks: Smooth surface with no cuts or bruises on the surface,
How it feels/smells: Firm and heavy for its size.
How to store: Keep whole, washed melons at room temperature and cubed melon in the refrigerator for up to five days.
How they look: Well-shaped without dark or mushy spots.
How they feel/smell: Firm and dry with a pleasant, earthy aroma.
How to store: Refrigerate in the original container or a paper bag for up to one week. Rinse lightly just before using and pat dry.
How it looks: Fresh dark green leaves. Avoid soft or dark spots and dry looking leaves.
How it feels/smells: Heavy for its size with a sweet aroma at the stem end.
How to store: At room temperature but cut and eat as soon as possible. Refrigerate cubed pineapple and eat within three days.
How they look: Bright, shiny skin without spots or bruising.
How they feel: Give slightly to gentle pressure and feel heavy for their size. The stem end will smell sweet and earthy.
How to store: At room temperature away from direct sunlight. Do not refrigerate unless it’s necessary to prevent spoilage.
Even with the best intentions, sometimes you just can’t eat fruits or vegetables in time, and they begin to spoil. When this happens, try to incorporate overripe fruits in a smoothie or wash and freeze them for later use. As for vegetables, add wilted greens to soup, casseroles or stir fry or par-cook until just tender and freeze broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and carrots. There are many ways to ‘rescue’ such fruits and veggies to combat food waste and avoid sacrificing your grocery budget. For more ideas on how to avoid food waste, read Eat the ugly food: learn to love cooking with scraps.
Beth Stark is a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications consultant based in Pa. She’s also written about Gut Health She’s also written about 5 Everyday Foods that Nourish your gut.