How to Buy Vegetables

How to Buy VegetablesYou’re probably looking at the title and thinking “How hard can it be to buy some vegetables?” but believe me, there are a lot of people out there who just don’t buy them. Although they may eat them in restaurants or at mom’s house when they return home, buying a turnip or an artichoke or some carrots can be confusing. People today eat out so often that if someone does decide they want to eat a more balanced diet, it could lead them to the supermarket or farmer’s market to buy vegetables for the first time where they think “Well, how do I know which one is good?

Fortunately the United States Department of Agriculture has put together a helpful infographic that will hold your hand through the vegetable-buying process. Lifehacker has a great post about the image along with a few other tidbits of information that might be useful, but the image itself is what’s key, and you can find it below. Download it (or the PDF here) to your phone and keep it with you so when you’re wandering through the produce section for the first time, you don’t end up buying vegetables that taste bad or die after a few days. Also, make sure to check out the Lifehacker article linked above, as the author also breaks down some other helpful tips such as how to handle produce, why you should cook your vegetables, ignoring the price tag, what to do with oddly shaped veggies, how to properly store your tomatoes, and the article links to a post on how to determine when it’s time to eat corn or pumpkin.

If you’ve wanted to try preparing vegetables in your own kitchen but found the shopping process a little daunting, you have no excuses anymore! Check out the full-size image after the break:

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Don’t Taste the Rainbow, Eat the Rainbow!

Don't Taste the Rainbow, Eat the Rainbow!I was recently going through some old bookmarks and found an interesting article that was posted on Lifehacker that slipped by me. It discusses the idea behind eating the colors of the rainbow. The idea behind it is that it’s a relatively easy way to ensure that you’re getting a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients from many different sources of food.

We’ve all heard about how it’s important to eat leafy green vegetables. Kale is especially trendy these days, likely because overall it has a great balance of the things our bodies need. For example, kale is high in fiber, has a decent amount of calcium, and contains vitamins A, C, and K. Broccoli, swiss chard, and spinach are other healthy, low calorie options for leafy green vegetables.

Blue and purple vegetables are rich with fiber and vitamin C along with the nutrients lutein, zeaxanthin, and resveratrol. Some examples include blueberries, eggplants, pomegranates, prunes, and blackberries.

Red, orange, and yellow fruits also contain an abundance of vitamins C and A, along with beta-carotene, lycopene, and other nutrients that can help lower blood pressure and promote healthy joints. Some examples of these fruits and vegetables include cranberries, tomatoes, strawberries, oranges, carrots, grapefruits, pineapples, and peppers.

One of the easiest ways to eat the rainbow is with a smoothie each morning. You could toss in some green kale, some yellow pineapple, orange carrots, red strawberries, and a handful of blueberries to cover your bases. With your meals, include a side of veggies and you’ve just about covered every color of the rainbow for the day. Mix things up with different fruits and veggies each day to keep your body on its (healthy!) toes.


Why You Should be Blending and Not Juicing

Why You Should be Blending and Not JuicingWe’ve all seen the infomercials for juicers. They lead you to believe that cramming a grocery bag full of fruits and vegetables into the machine only to watch it dribble out a paltry glass full of juice is the way to lead a healthier lifestyle. If you’re skeptical about juicing, you should be.

Don’t get me wrong, if your diet consists of Cheetos and cheeseburgers, taking a 180° turn towards a healthier life is better than what you were doing before. But if you’re already leading a somewhat healthy lifestyle, there are better ways to drink your fruits and vegetables instead of juicing.

The problem with juicing is that it takes a lot of stuff to get a glass of juice. You’re stuffing cucumbers and carrots and oranges and apples into the machine but only getting a glass or two of juice out because you’re tossing the majority of the fruit or veggie into the garbage. There’s not a whole lot of juice in each orange or apple which is why it takes so many to make a single glass of juice.

As you can imagine, this is not only extremely wasteful, it’s also very expensive. If you’re juicing twice per day, you’re going to be spending a lot of money on fruits and vegetables. Instead of tossing everything but the juice into the garbage, why not drink the “waste” too?

If you have a good blender you can take a handful of blueberries, a carrot, some slices of apple, some banana, and then add milk or water as a base and get a drink that’s not only healthy for you, but it’s filling as well. When you’re juicing, you’re just drinking a glass of juice. You will be hungry after drinking it. When you’re blending, you’re literally blending up a meal of fruits and veggies, so you’ll stay full longer.

When you blend, you’re getting all the good stuff found in the rest of the fruit or vegetable that you would otherwise throw away if you were juicing. Fiber and antioxidants are found in the pulp, seeds, and skin of fruits and vegetables, and when you’re juicing, you’re not getting them.

Juicers can also be quite expensive, but when you’re blending, you just need a blender, which is something most of us already have. You don’t necessarily need a Joe Rogan Blendtec blender, either–though if you’re a serious smoothie drinker, I’d highly recommend one–but something like the NutriBullet (yes, I know it’s an infomerical product, but one with great reviews) is an easy and economical way to start blending.

Fresh vs. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh vs. Frozen Fruits and VegetablesAhh, the age old debate: fresh vs. frozen fruits and vegetables.

Personally, I buy both. I’ll get a bag of frozen fruit (typically a frozen berry blend or straight blueberries) which I use in my smoothies. If it’s fruit that I plan on eating, then I buy fresh. The same goes for my vegetables as well. I have a general plan in my head about what I’m going to eat and on what days, and I buy my produce based on that.

It’s easy to think that frozen wouldn’t be as nutritious as fresh, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Generally fruit that’s frozen is picked when it’s at its peak ripeness. It’s then blanched to sterilize it, flash-frozen afterwards, and then packaged and shipped off to your local grocery store.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are a different story. Have you ever seen green bananas at your local supermarket? That’s because fresh produce is picked before it’s ripe. It’s then boxed up and shipped out on trucks where it starts to ripen on its journey to grocery stores around the globe. I say “around the globe” because the vast majority of the produce you’ll find at your supermarket isn’t grown locally. If it was, you probably wouldn’t have access to most of it during the winter months.

So, which is better: fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables?

Well, they’re both about the same, according to the FDA. The Food and Drug Administration found in a 1998 study that in terms of nutrition, fresh and frozen produce are about the same. Sure, some nutrients are lost during the blanching and freezing process for frozen produce, but fresh produce can also lose some nutrients during its journey from the farm to your grocery store where it will sit in boxes exposed to both warm and cold temperatures.

Which one is right for you really depends on your needs. If you like having vegetables with your dinner occasionally, pick up a bag of frozen corn or even canned peas packed in water. If you like berries on your cereal or banana cut on your oatmeal, fresh is probably the way to go.

What is the Nutri Bullet Blender?

What is the Nutri Bullet Blender?I first heard about the Nutri Bullet on a podcast. I knew nothing about it, but immediately I thought of an informercial product based on the name alone. Turns out I was right, as the Nutri Bullet blender is like the big brother of the Magic Bullet, an (in)famous staple of late-night television.

The Nutri Bullet NBR-12 can be thought of as an upgraded version of the Magic Bullet. Like its name implies, it’s for more nutrition-minded folks rather than those who are looking to blend up margaritas and milkshakes. The Nutri Bullet certainly can blend those drinks, but it’s been reconfigured and optimized for making fruit and vegetable-heavy blended drinks for the health conscious.

The Nutri Bullet features a patented blade design with “cyclonic action” which I take it means that it pulls ingredients into the blades so you don’t have to start and stop the blender to adjust the position of your ingredients. It’s apparently good enough to liquefy just about anything you’d want to add to your smoothie, from fruits and veggies, ice, nuts, seeds, and stems.

Compared to the blender I’m using now, what I like about the Nutri Bullet is that, like the Magic Bullet, the container you put your ingredients in to blend them is the container you drink your smoothie out of. This limits the amount of clean up, which is always a bonus as far as I’m concerned, even though I have a dishwasher.

The Nutri Bullet comes with the base, a tall cup, two short cups, one flat blade, an emulsifying blade, two resealable lids, and literature about the unit along with some recipes. The unit features a 600-watt motor, which should be more than capable for producing a smoothie each day in the home, but it’s nearly 1,000 watts less powerful than the commercial-grade Blendtec Wildside. That being said, the Nutri Bullet is also $300 to $400 less than a Blendtec or Vitamix blender.

The Nutri Bullet is certainly an attractive little blender in terms of features and price, and I would be curious to try it out to see just how well it performs. Based on reviews, the majority of people seem to be quite happy with the product. There are occasional one-star reviews, but many of those seem to be based on the price rather than the performance of the product itself.

With 2014 just around the corner, I’d say that the Nutri Bullet is an interesting blender to consider if you’re thinking about starting off the new year with a focus on your health. It’s a fraction of the cost of a high-end blender which means the commitment level isn’t high if you tend to flake out on your resolutions after a few weeks. I’d also suggest purchasing something like this over a juicer. A product like the Nutri Bullet NBR-12 uses the whole fruit and vegetable, helping you to feel full longer and to obtain the vitamins, nutrients, and fiber found in the skin and pulp of fruits and veggies that you’d be throwing away when using a juicer.