Picking Produce: 3 Questions for Getting it Right


How to Choose the Best Produce

No matter if you are Paleo, Vegetarian, Raw, Vegan or generally trying to eat well, fresh produce is the foundation of any healthy diet. However, choosing the best produce can sometimes be overwhelming and oftentimes goes bad before you can even use it. Next time you are at the grocery store, ask yourself these three questions to make sure that you are choosing the best produce.

How Far Has My Produce Travelled?

When produce is first harvested, it is the freshest, tastiest, and most nutritious that it will ever be. When produce is grown locally it has to travel a shorter distance and gets to your grocery store more quickly. It will be more flavorful, nutrient dense and last longer after you buy it. Buying produce that’s in season is more likely to be local and fresh. Shopping at your local farmers’ market is a great way to ensure that your produce is local and in season. Grocery stores will also organize the produce that is in season so that it is at the front and it is typically on sale!

When Am I Going to Eat This Produce?

Even when stored correctly, some produce will spoil much more quickly than others. This doesn’t mean that you have to make multiple trips to the store, but rather organize your cooking so that you eat the more perishable produce early on. I absolutely love this weekly guide developed by Marita Cantwell, PhD, a postharvest specialist at the University of California, Davis. It is based on a Sunday shopping trip and assumes all of the produce is ripe:

EAT FIRST:  Sunday to Tuesday

• Artichokes
• Asparagus
• Avocados
• Bananas
• Basil
• Broccoli
• Cherries
• Corn
• Dill
• Green beans
• Mushrooms
• Mustard greens
• Strawberries
• Watercress

EAT NEXT: Wednesday to Friday

• Arugula
• Cucumbers
• Eggplant
• Grapes
• Lettuce
• Lime
• Mesclun
• Pineapple
• Zucchini

EAT LAST: Weekend

• Apricots
• Bell peppers
• Blueberries
• Brussels sprouts
• Cauliflower
• Grapefruit
• Leeks
• Lemons
• Mint
• Oranges
• Oregano
• Parsley
• Peaches
• Pears
• Plums
• Spinach
• Tomatoes
• Watermelon


• Apples
• Beets
• Cabbage
• Carrots
• Celery
• Garlic
• Onions
• Potatoes
• Winter squash

What’s My Back-up Plan?

Still, sometimes no matter how well you plan, some produce will start to go bad. At this point you can throw the vegetables into a soup or blend into a tomato sauce and freeze for a later date. Alternatively, you can combine fruits and leafy greens into individual freezer bags or mason jars. These can be used for quick and nutritious smoothies.  Finally, if the produce has truly spoiled, it will be a great addition to your own personal compost or local community compost in your area.

Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist with a private practice in San Diego, CA. She speaks nationally on the topics of health and nutrition and has been cited as a nutrition expert by media such as NBC, FOX, SELF, Cosmopolitan and Dr. Oz The Good Life. Download her FREE 4 Step Nutrition Quick Start Guide and start feeling better today!

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