Organic, Frozen, or Plain Regular?

When I was living on my own for a year, the bane of my existence was going grocery shopping. I never pre-planned meals (nor did I actually cook real meals, now that I think about it) and I had this theory that if I just get everything I like, then it will all work out. Usually, that would up with me trying to make dinner out of a can of olives, blueberries, cottage cheese, pasta, cereal, nutella and a bag of Cheetos.
Fresh produce was the worse: the first couple of times, I always let the fresh stuff go bad, and I had no idea what organic really meant – except that it was more expensive and I probably wasn’t hipster enough to rock it – and it was only until about my 5th trip that I realized that I could a majority of the produce I bought frozen. I also didn’t think about the health considerations – pesticides, how to best retain all the nutrients, etc. So here’s a quick guide for your next shopping trip, so that you can get the most out of your dollar, while still giving your body all the nutrients it should be getting from your produce.

produce-383x300

Image courtesy of couponchristine.com

 
Organic and Non-organic: anything that has a “tough skin” generally can be bought non-organic. But things like spinach, strawberries, or anything that has a thin skin and that you wouldn’t peel should be bought organic as it would be a lot easier for pesticides to be absorbed into the produce. Things that have also been imported long distances should also be given second thought, as they probably have been treated so that they don’t go bad as quickly.
The Environmental Working Group releases an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the fruits and vegetables that are found to have the most pesticide residue (some have been found to have almost 50 different pesticides when tested). This year’s list includes: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, and potatoes. They also have a “Clean 15” list of produce that you can buy non-organic, as they have little to none pesticide residue. Other things you should consider buying organic: meat (especially beef – lean meats are clean), milk, chocolate, and coffee.
Frozen: As long as you’re not buying hot pockets or something, frozen produce, contrary to what you might think, can be just as nutritious (sometimes even more) as fresh produce, since they would have been frozen soon after being harvested. It’s also an incredibly convenient alternative, since they’re usually already pre-cut and pre-washed, and if you’re living on your own, you don’t end up with eating the same meal for a week because you had cook all the fresh asparagus you had – whatever you don’t need can just go back in the freezer.
When buying frozen, go for things that are currently not in season, so you can get the most out of your buck, but still have benefit of high nutritional value and variety in your meals. Only get the vegetables/fruit themselves – mixes with rice or sauces or meats, or sugar are a no go (the names of the vegetables/fruits should be the only things on the ingredient list). Also watch out for icy chunks, because that means they have been thawed and refrozen, which also signals loss of nutrients.
Last note: How you cook/prepare your food is also a key factor on whether your vegetables still retain their nutrients – boiling/steaming and even microwaving are good techniques for preparing your vegetables, and for your fruits stay away from the sugar and syrups. Happy Shopping!  

Leave a Reply