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Be picky about your produce

By Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN • Feb 12, 2020 at 4:30 PM

A plant-based diet is all the rage and for a good reason! Fruits and vegetables are low in calories but high in nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, which keep you feeling great and reduce your risk of chronic disease. Being picky about produce means you not only care about the quality, but food safety as well.

Food safety is crucial at each stage of the food system — from the farm, to your fork. Contamination from harmful bacteria can occur at any stage including during growing or harvesting seasons, manufacturing, processing and packaging, as well as holding or transportation to the grocery store. While most of us do not have much control over these stages, we can make sure we are following food safety practices at the store, at home, and as we are preparing fruits and vegetables. Keep your family healthy and safe with these tips.

First, at the store, pick produce without bruises or other damages. Pre-cut produce will be in the refrigerated section to reduce the risk of bacterial growth. In your cart and bags, keep produce separate from raw meat, poultry or seafood to avoid contamination.

After shopping, go straight home to refrigerate produce promptly. If you can’t go straight home, bring a small cooler with ice packs to keep your produce cold, especially pre-cut fruits and veggies. While warmer weather seems far away, when it’s hot outside, keep your groceries in an air-conditioned car rather than in your trunk.

At home, refrigerate fresh-cut, peeled or whole perishable fruits and vegetables, like strawberries, lettuce and herbs. A good rule of thumb is if you bought it from the refrigerated section at the store, keep it in the refrigerator at home. It’s a good idea to keep a thermometer in your refrigerator as well to make sure it stays below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

When it comes to food prep, wash all fruits and vegetables even if you plan to peel the skin. The exception is produce in packaging that indicates it’s been pre-washed. Remember to keep ready-to-eat foods separate from raw foods at home as well.

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