One of the biggest barriers to eating fresh fruits and vegetables is that we throw out almost half of the food we buy.
To help you use the foods you have in your fridge, SheKnows.com chatted with dietitian Sue Mah and got her shopping, meal planning and diet tips and tricks to keep your food free from spoilage.
Our good diet intentions
“I think [North Americans] have good intentions to eat well,” says Mah. “But many people have poor meal planning skills. We have healthy ingredients in the fridge, but when we’re pressed for time we forget about them and opt for take-out or convenience food instead.”
Minimize waste and improve your diet
Mah suggests the following ways to keep your food at its most nutrient-dense and minimize waste:
- Plan healthy meals a few days in advance so you know what ingredients to buy.
- Buy fresh foods only in the amounts you need for that day or next couple of days.
- Store all foods properly to maximize freshness.
- Use leftovers the next day or freeze them if you don’t plan to eat them right away.
- Freeze to preserve the freshness of the healthy foods you have on hand.
Food freezing tips
According to Mah, freezing produce is key to preserving the vitamins, minerals and freshness of fruits and vegetables.
For example, says Mah, freeze fresh berries. “They’ll instantly add a pop of summer to your smoothies and muffins.”
Freeze fresh fruit juice
Freeze juice from freshly squeezed lemons and limes.
Freeze bananas to bake banana bread or muffins. The skins will turn black, but the bananas will turn sweeter.
Use leftover veggies to make soup, then freeze the soup for an instant healthy dinner on a cold winter’s night. Simply reheat and eat.
Food storage tips for a long shelf life
“It’s important to store foods properly so that they don’t go bad,” Mah explains.
Here’s how to store some common fresh produce items:
- Apples: Store them in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge. Apples at room temperature will soften 10 times faster than in the fridge — and nobody likes eating a soft apple!
- Potatoes: Store them in a dark, cool place, away from the onions. Potatoes that have a green tinge or sprouts have been improperly stored and should be thrown out.
- Mushrooms: Store them in a paper bag, not a plastic bag. Mushrooms “sweat” and will decay if stored in a plastic bag.
- Lettuce: Wash and dry lettuce leaves and store them in a damp tea towel.
- Garlic: Store garlic in a dark, cool spot, like a garlic keeper. Don’t store garlic in the fridge — otherwise it will sprout and go bad.
- Melons: Often we can’t eat a whole melon at once. Keep the seeds in the cut half of the melon to prevent the fruit from drying out.
- Peppers: If you can’t eat the whole red or green pepper at once, keep the seeds in the cut half to prevent the veggie from drying out.
- Asparagus: Wrap the ends of the stalks in a damp towel and place in a plastic bag. Better yet, store them standing up in a shallow tray of water.
- Whole wheat flour, brown rice, wheat germ and flax: Store in the fridge to help them last longer.
- Eggs: Store them in the coldest part of the fridge, not in the fridge door.