Learn how to choose fresh vegetables and fruits

Heaps of colourful fruit and veggies line the fresh produce aisles of grocery stores, supermarkets and wet markets. There are many types of fruit in the world, and we are truly lucky to be able to enjoy all these different kinds of fruit in Singapore.

As you prepare to choose your fresh fruit and vegetables, a question pops into mind, “how do I know if the fruit or vegetable I’m picking is the best?”

Things to Consider When Buying Fruits and Vegetables

Flash-frozen vegetables are just as nutritious

Frozen or Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Whether frozen or fresh, let fruits and vegetables take priority in your meal planning. They are healthy food choices for everyone including children, adults and also the elderly.

Keep a checklist on your fridge to help you plan when to consume perishable fruits and vegetables. That way, they are not forgotten and left to wilt in your fridge.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are nutritious and convenient alternatives when fresh produce is not available. They are flash-frozen to lock in their nutrients immediately after harvest. They can be as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.

Buy Fruits and Vegetables in Season

Fruits in season peak in flavour and nutrients. If you see a type of produce in abundance with a discounted price tag, there is a good chance that it’s in season.

Look at the Source of Origin

Most of our fruits and veggies come from Malaysia, China, USA and Australia while local farms produce 12 percent of our leafy vegetables[1]. Shorter time from source to market means fewer nutrients and flavour are lost in transit.

Organic or Not, Fruits and Vegetables Are Healthy Food

Should you buy organic produce? Numerous studies have been done over the decades but there is no clear conclusion that organic foods are healthier, safer or tastier than conventionally grown ones. Organic or not, it is good to eat more fruits and veggies and reap the health benefits!

Get Colourful When Buying Fruits and Vegetables

Eat a rainbow! — Choose fruits and veggies of different colours to get the maximum nutrients you need.

Fruits are also a ready-to-eat convenient and healthy snack for when the craving hits. Whether you’re making meal plans with optimum nutrition for yourself or nutrition for your children, be sure to put fruits on the menu.

Related: Organic Food — Is It Better for You?

How to Pick Fresh Fruit

Choose fruits that are ripe

There are many clues to determine when ripe fruit is at its best. Here are some tips on what to look out for:

Tropical Fruits

Examples: Mangosteen, mango, dragonfruit, papaya and pineapple

  • Gently press a mangosteen fruit. You’ll want those that can be pressed in slightly
  • Mangoes, a fleshy fruit, are slightly soft when ripe, usually with an intense fragrance
  • A ripe dragonfruit is evenly pink with fresh-looking petals and a soft stem
  • Papayas are yellow when fully ripe and are slightly soft when pressed. Pick one that feels heavy for its size
  • Ripe pineapples are tricky to find. Look for yellower ones with a pleasant aroma at the stem end

Citrus Fruits

Examples: Orange, grapefruit, pomelo and kiwi

  • Firm, bright-looking with finely-textured peel
  • Gives off a strong fragrance
  • Redder grapefruits and pomelos with a yellow tinge tend to be sweeter
  • Choose navel oranges if you like seedless and sweet oranges
  • Kiwis are slightly soft when ripe and have taut skin

Melons

Examples: Watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe

  • Ripe watermelons look dull, not shiny and have dried stem ends. Look for the cream-coloured patch on the skin where they rested on the ground before harvest — the deeper the colour, the better it is
  • Netted melons such as rockmelons and cantaloupes give off an intense fragrance when they are fully ripe. Their rinds are raised while the skin beneath becomes golden
  • Unfortunately, the baby-skinned honeydew does not wear a scent when they peak. Instead, look for a yellow tinge in their waxy exterior
  • The stem end of melons can be pressed in gently when they are ripe

Berries

Examples: Strawberry, blueberry, blackberry and raspberry

  • Choose blueberries that are plump, brightly-coloured with a whitish bloom. Shake the container of blueberries gently. If the berries don’t move freely, they may be soft or damaged
  • Buy strawberries that give off a strong scent, an indication that they are sweet and ripe
  • Look for shiny and firm blackberries
  • Raspberries should be firm, plump and deeply-coloured
  • Store blackberries and raspberries in a single layer as they bruise easily
  • Berries don’t stay fresh beyond a few days, so eat them fast! If not, freeze them for frozen sweet treats

Stone fruits

Examples: Plum, peach, nectarine and apricot

  • Select stone fruit with firm skin that is not wrinkled
  • Softer fruits are sweeter and juicier. Leave them to ripen before refrigeration
  • A deeper colour is a hint of ripeness, especially around the stem end

Others

Examples: Apple, pear, passionfruit, grapes

  • Apples and pears should be firm and smooth-skinned
  • A ripe passionfruit is plump, heavy for its size and wrinkled
  • Look for plump grapes with a whitish bloom and healthy brown stems that still hold the fruit firmly

How to Choose Fresh Vegetables

Vegetables are healthy food for everyone  

Vegetables from plant parts such as the root and stem can be kept longer than leafy greens, so plan ahead. Here are tips on how to shop for veggies:

Dark green vegetables

Examples: Green leafy vegetables, broccoli and lettuce

  • Leafy vegetables such as spinach should have bright green leaves and tender, crisp stems
  • Fresh broccolis have compact, green florets and undamaged stems
  • Lettuce leaves should be crisp and bright

Red and orange vegetables

Examples: Carrot, capsicum (bell peppers), chilli and sweet potato

  • Pick slim, medium-sized carrots which are well-formed and bright
  • Capsicums and chilli should be firm, deeply-coloured and glossy
  • Avoid sweet potatoes with stringed “beards” as they are older and less tasty! Pick small to medium-sized ones with even tones

Beans and peas

Examples: French bean, green beans, snow pea, sweet pea and dried beans

  • Edible bean pods such as french beans and snow peas taste better when they are tender and crisp with smaller beans within them
  • Sweet peas are firm and crisp; they should not bend
  • Dried beans should be free from mould, insects or discolouration

Starchy vegetables

Examples: Potato, corn and yam

  • Choose potatoes which are firm and have fewer “eyes”. They should not have any sprouts
  • Look for bright and plump corn kernels when buying an ear of corn
  • A lighter yam (or taro) is a better pick as it has less water and more likely to be “powdery”. When choosing yam that has been cut, look for the ones with more red veins inside

Others

Examples: Cabbage, brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, eggplant and lady’s finger

  • A good cabbage should be firm or even hard
  • Tender asparagus are bright green with tightly closed spears that have darker green or purplish tips
  • Cauliflower heads should be firm and compact with no brown spots
  • If you are buying the longer variety of eggplant (or brinjal), hold it up and test if it is springy (and young) by flicking it gently
  • Smaller and shorter lady’s fingers are younger and crisper

Related: Benefits of Vegetables

Enjoy the Rainbow Feast

Eat different colours of vegetables to get maximum nutrients.

To enjoy the best from fruits and veggies, choose a variety and try different ways of cooking and eating them. Don’t forget to eat two servings of fruits and two servings of vegetables each day. Healthy food keeps you glowing and healthy naturally!

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.


Read these next:

References

  1. Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore. (2015, Dec 21). The Food We Eat [AVA Singapore]. 
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.ava.gov.sg/explore-by-sections/food/singapore-food-supply/the-food-we-eat 
  2. BBC Worldwide. (n.d.). Glossary [GoodFood]. 
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary 
  3. Los Angeles Times. (n.d.). Russ Parsons' Southern California Seasonal Produce Guide [LA Times California Cookbook]. 
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://recipes.latimes.com/produce-guide/ 
  4. Real Simple. (n.d.). Shopping & Storing [Real Simple]. 
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing