woman inspecting carrots before she buys them

Here Are Some Things to Consider:

brocolli and carrots
  • Let fruits and vegetables take priority in your meal planning. You may 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. Then add protein and whole-grains. 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. Hence they can be as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.

  • Buy what’s in season — that’s when they peak in flavour and nutrients. If you see a particular produce in abundance with a discounted price tag, there is a good chance that it’s in season.

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

  • 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!

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

Fruits are also a 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 a fruit on the menu.

Related: Organic Food — Is It Better for You?

Choosing Fruit

a container of blueberries next to strawberries

There are many clues to indicate when a 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. You’ll want those that can be pressed in slightly

  • Mangoes 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 is 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 rock melons 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 fruit 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


Choosing Vegetables

brocolli, cauliflower and various other vegetables  

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, 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, 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 mold, insects or discoloration


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, 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


Enjoy the Rainbow Feast

vegetable row at the supermarket

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. They keep you glowing and healthy naturally!


Related:


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