A recent study found that shoppers that shop more often have better quality diets and higher fruit and vegetable consumption.
Plenty of studies show the benefits of increasing fruit and vegetable intake, yet according to the CDC, just 1 in 10 adults get adequate produce in their diets.
There’s lots of great affordable food in each department if you know what to look for. Below are some tips for buying, storing, and using fruit.
Go by the season
Ever notice that apples taste best in the fall and winter, but aren’t so great in spring and summer? When fruit is harvested and eaten when it's in season, the flavor, nutrition, and cost are most favorable. Buying fruit in season is less expensive than purchasing it out of season. What’s in season also depends on your area of the country. Strawberries are in season in the Midwest from May to July but are harvested from March to November on the West coast.
While oranges and apples look beautiful in a bowl on your counter, they’ll keep longer if placed in the refrigerator or other cold storage. Citrus fruit and apples have a long shelf life and can stay in the frig for up to 6 months. Both fruits may be available year-round but the cost will vary by season.
Pears, bananas, and stone fruit like peaches or plums may need to sit on the counter to ripen before they’re ripe to eat or ready for the frig. Tomatoes should always be stored at room temperature and not in a cold environment.
Berries of any kind should be refrigerated and not washed before use to prevent them from getting moldy. They may keep longer if placed on layered paper towels on a cookie sheet in your frig. Eat them within a few days of purchase or freeze them. These are highly perishable fruits!
Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried?
While there’s no disputing that fresh fruit has a better texture than frozen or canned, frozen or canned fruit shouldn’t be discounted from your diet. Frozen fruit is picked at the peak of ripeness and frozen immediately to lock in its nutrients. In some cases, it may be more nutritious than fresh since it won’t be exposed to handling, temperature changes, or sunlight. Canned fruit packed in juice or water may be lower in fiber than fresh but will have a longer shelf life.
Fresh fruit is the most perishable and should be used within days or weeks of purchase, while frozen fruit may last up to 8 to 10 months. Canned fruit is shelf-stable for 1 to 2 years.
Dried fruit is another option that many don’t consider. Dried apricots, plums or raisins are a good source of potassium as well as fiber. While dried fruit tends to be higher in calories per serving size, a few teaspoons go a long way. The beauty of dried fruit is convenience. You can pack them when you go camping or on a road trip.
Ways to use them
- Add fresh fruit to salads, yogurt or served with cheese and nuts on a charcuterie board if you’re feeling fancy.
- Chop fresh fruit and add to cottage cheese or with a smear of peanut or almond butter.
- Add frozen fruit to overnight oats, smoothies, or yogurt.
- Use frozen fruit in compotes or sauces for meat or fish.
- Try canned fruit works in smoothies, yogurt, sauces, or fruit pies.
- Dried fruit can be added to oatmeal, salad, dry cereal, or trail mix.
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Download our chocolate fruit truffle recipe handout - great for holidays, snacks, and dessert!
This article is part of a series on healthy shopping and shopping and nutrition research.