Is Fresh Produce Always Best?

Is Fresh Produce Always Best?

How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat each day? What about your children? The recommended serving varies by age, gender and activity level, so the answer should not be the same for you and your child. The MyPlate guidelines break down how much of each food group we should be eating based on age.

It’s probably not surprising that according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables; and, there are a number of reasons why. For some it is price, while others lack time to prepare produce in a manner that will appeal to everyone’s taste buds (see my recent blog post on how to prepare roasted veggies for more on that!). There is also a great deal of misinformation that exists when it comes to choosing fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, which I will try to clarify below.


Many people assume that fresh produce is always the best option. While it is great to have fresh produce available, it isn’t necessarily the best choice. There is some nutrient loss that occurs the longer fresh produce is stored, not to mention the potential for spoilage and waste if it isn’t consumed soon after purchase. Fresh produce tends to be more expensive (though choosing those that are in season helps), which encourages the perception that eating more fruits and vegetables is costly. In addition, there is generally more preparation work involved with cleaning and cutting up fresh produce which is another barrier for some.


Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of freshness and quickly processed to retain the maximum amount of nutrients. There is a wide variety of frozen produce to choose from and little preparation involved in serving it. Frozen options can often be cooked straight from the bag or left out to thaw depending upon the recipe, making it a convenient option to keep on hand. Sometimes, frozen produce is more affordable than fresh produce. I keep a wide variety of frozen vegetables on hand to throw into homemade soups and stews, as well as pasta sauces. Frozen broccoli, green beans and peas are often on our weekly menu.


People tend to think canned produce is the worst of the three options, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Like frozen produce, canned fruits and vegetables are harvested at the peak of freshness and quickly processed to retain the maximum nutrients value. Cans have a long shelf life and are great to keep on hand for quick meals and in case of emergency. For instance, this past winter there were numerous power outages throughout the country; having canned food ready for this type of situation is important. In addition, canned produce is often more affordable than both fresh and frozen produce.

Although some canned foods are high in sodium, which can pose health risks, canned vegetables generally are not. And, there are reduced sodium, low sodium and no salt added options available. In addition, draining and rinsing canned vegetables reduces the sodium level by up to 41%. Some of my favorite canned vegetables that I always keep in my pantry are tomatoes, pumpkin and a variety of beans. To learn more about the facts regarding canned fruits and vegetables, visit this website.

The bottom line is it doesn’t matter whether you choose fresh, frozen or canned produce as long as you are eating enough fruits and vegetables. Choose based on your budget, time constraints and individual needs and taste preferences. The best strategy is to have a variety of fresh, frozen and canned produce available for your family so that you always have options and everyone is able to get in the daily recommended amount.

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