University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #FSHN11-04

Shopping for Health: Vegetables1

Ashley R. Kendall and Wendy J. Dahl2

Vegetables contain important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.(1) These nutrients help to promote overall good health. It is recommended that Americans consume at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day,(2) but most Americans eat far fewer.

Choosing the right vegetables will help you get the nutrients your body needs every day. With so many choices though, vegetable shopping can seem like a hard task—but it doesn’t have to be. This article will help you learn to become a smarter vegetable shopper.

Shopping Tips

Here is a list of tips that will make vegetable shopping easy and fun.

Tip #1

Choose vegetables you know you like and know how to prepare. This is the easiest way to add vegetables into your diet.(3)

Tip #2

Buy vegetables that are in season because they tend to be less expensive and have the best flavor.(4) Table 1 shows a few common vegetables and when they are most likely to be in season.(5) Search the Sustainable Table website at http://www.sustainabletable.org/shop/seasonal to find seasonal vegetables in Florida.

Figure 1. 

Vegetables


Credit:

Photo by Chris Gornell and used here under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Tip #3

Buy pre-packaged, fresh vegetables that are already washed and sliced. These vegetables don’t need any work. They can be added directly to any recipe or eaten as a quick snack.(4) The downside to these vegetables is that they tend to cost more.

Tip #4

Canned and frozen vegetables may cost less and have a longer shelf life than fresh vegetables. Canned vegetables tend to be higher in sodium (salt), so be sure to buy the cans labeled “low-sodium” or “no salt added.”(4) You can cut the sodium content even further by draining and rinsing your canned vegetables. For example, draining and rinsing canned beans lowers their sodium levels by as much as 41 percent.(14)

Benefits of canned and frozen vegetables include the following:

  • Most canned and frozen vegetables are packaged within hours of being picked. This means the vegetables keep their flavor and nutrients.

  • Canned vegetables are ready to use in recipes.

  • Frozen vegetables only need to be cooked because the washing and slicing is already done.(6)

Tip #5

Add color to your vegetable choices. Vegetables come in a variety of colors. Eating vegetables with different colors gives your body a good mix of nutrients. The vegetables with the brightest colors often have the most vitamins and minerals.(3) For example, bright orange and yellow vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash are full of vitamin A. This vitamin helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.(7) The website Fruits & Veggies: More Matters (http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/partner_websites/about.html) offers more examples of vegetables and their key nutrients.

Tip #6

If you have children, let them help with the vegetable shopping. Letting them pick their own vegetables makes the shopping trip fun and educational.(4) Children are more likely to eat the vegetables they choose.(3)

Figure 2. 

A mother listens to her son in the fresh produce aisle at the market.


Credit:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis used here under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are a great place to buy fresh vegetables. They often provide shoppers with farm-fresh, locally grown vegetables that are in season. Farmers’ markets allow shoppers to know where their food comes from. You may even get a chance to meet the farmer who grew the produce.(8)

Many farmers’ markets are now taking part in nutrition assistance programs. These programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),(9) the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program,(10) as well as the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).(11)

To find a farmers’ market near you, visit http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets. In Florida, you can also visit Florida MarketMaker online at http://fl.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/. Florida MarketMaker is a FREE resource and service of the Florida Cooperative Extension Service that allows consumers to visualize the marketplace and connect with producers, retailers, restaurants, and farmers' markets with a search-and-map feature.

Organic Vegetables

The term “organic” has been in the media a lot. Many people wonder what the term “organic” means and if organic foods are healthier choices. The farmers who grow organic vegetables work to keep the soil and water safe. These vegetables are grown without the use of standard pesticides. Vegetables labeled with the organic seal must be grown on a farm that has passed a government inspection.(12)

Are organic vegetables the healthier choice? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that regular vegetables are just as nutritious as organic vegetables. The USDA says that the term “organic” only refers to the way the vegetables are grown, handled, and processed.(13) Even though there is no nutritional difference, there can be a difference in cost. Organic vegetables may cost more than regular vegetables.

Whether you choose to eat organic vegetables or non-organic vegetables, the point is to eat more vegetables and to always follow basic food safety rules.(14) For more information on this topic, refer to the EDIS publication, Fresh-Cut Produce: Safe Handling Practices for Consumers (FCS8740), available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy484.

Learn More

Contact one of the following reliable sources in your county:

For a referral to a registered dietitian (RD) in your area, you may call the Florida Dietetic Association at (850)386-8850, or check the yellow pages of your phone book.

For more information on vegetables in general, refer to the following resources:

Endnotes

(1) Fruit & Vegetable Benefits. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/benefits/index.html.

(2) Inside the Pyramid. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/vegetables_amount.aspx#.

(3) Fabulous Fruits, Versatile Vegetables. (June, 2003). Retrieved from http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2000/2000DGBrochureFabulousFruits.pdf#xml=http://65.216.150.153/texis/search/pdfhi.txt?query=vegetables&pr=CNPP&prox=page&rorder=500&rprox=500&rdfreq=500&rwfreq=500&rlead=500&rdepth=0&sufs=2&order=r&cq=&id=4c72cb8f12.

(4) Inside the Pyramid—Tips to Help You Eat Vegetables. (October, 2009). Retrieved from http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/vegetables_tips.html.

(5) What Fruits & Vegetables are in Season? (2010). Retrieved from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/?page_id=674.

(6) Fresh, Frozen, Canned, Dried, and 100% Juice: All Forms of Fruits & Vegetables Matter! (2010). Retrieved from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/?page_id=47.

(7) Fruit & Vegetable Benefits: Nutrient Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/benefits/nutrient_guide.html.

(8) Growing a Healthier You. (June, 2010). Retrieved from http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/KnowYourFarmer.htm.

(9) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (July, 2010). Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/ebt/fm.htm.

(10) WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. (June, 2010). Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/fmnp/fmnpfaqs.htm.

(11) Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (July, 2010). Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/SeniorFMNP/SeniorFMNPoverview.htm?debugMode=false.

(12) National Organic Program. (June, 2010). Retrieved from http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&leftNav=NationalOrganicProgram&page=NOPGoingOrganic&description=Going%20Organic&acct=nopgeninfo.

(13) About The Buzz: You Should Always Eat Organic Fruits and Vegetables? (2010). Retrieved from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/?page_id=12377.

(14) Jones, J.B., and J.R. Mount. (2009). Sodium Reduction in Canned Bean Varieties by Draining and Rinsing, 2009 Institute of Food Technologists Conference Poster. Anaheim, California.

Tables

Table 1. 

Examples of fresh vegetables by season

FALL

 
 

Squash

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Mushrooms

Sweet Potatoes

WINTER

 

Brussels Sprouts

Collard Greens

Turnips

Winter Squash

SPRING

 

Asparagus

Spinach

Onions

Peas

Lettuce

SUMMER

 

Bell Peppers

Corn

Cucumbers

Tomatoes

Green Beans

Footnotes

1.

This document is FSHN11-04, one of a series of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Published June 2011. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Ashley R. Kendall, dietetic intern, and Wendy J. Dahl, assistant professor; Food Science and Human Nutrition Department; University of Florida; Gainesville, FL 32611.

The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication does not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.