When In Doubt, Throw It Out!

When In Doubt, Throw It Out!

Have you ever dug deep into the bread bag to find a slice without mold? Sliced cheese just deep enough to potentially avoid the spores? Cut the brown spots out of your apple? Or had almond milk passed the ‘Best By’ date?

As a NutriBlaster, you’re probably fully aware that FRESH IS BEST. You also know the importance of getting in a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and boosts. However, you may be overwhelmed by the frequency of trips you're taking to the grocery store, because you just cannot figure out how to keep your produce nutritious and fresh long enough and you hate to waste money by throwing it out if it is still edible. Fresh foods are confusing enough, but what about those pesky “sell by,” “use by,” and “best by” stickers that are slapped on packaged items? When do we know if our food is still good or even safe to eat?

My best advice is, “When in doubt, throw it out!” But let’s find a way to delay spoilage in order to maximize nutrients. I’ll start with the base of your NutriBlasts, fruits and veggies, and next week I’ll touch on packaged products.

Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Shop at the Farmer’s Market. You can’t get any fresher than this unless you grow your own food. Look for a market in your area. Click here to see if one is located near you. Most often, the produce sold here has been picked 24-48 hours beforehand, which means it has a longer life than conventional items in the grocery store that have traveled for days and for hundreds of miles.
  2. Be picky; touch, prod and squeeze! Look for fruits and veggies that are free of blemishes, bruises and visible damage. Determine when you'll use it by to judge how ripe it should be when you purchase it.
  3. Store it right. High humidity crispers are for leafy greens and herbs, while low humidity should be used for harder fruits and veggies like apples. Carrots gone limp? Loss of moisture in some root veggies results from lack of humidity. After peeling flabby carrots to remove any surface bacteria, place them in ice water for several hours to reabsorb lost moisture and crisp up. Cold water also helps keep fresh herbs for up to two weeks.
  4. Once sliced, store safely. Keep cut fruits and veggies covered and refrigerated.

Your produce will take better care of you when you take better care of it! Here are some general storage tips for some of our most common fruits and vegetables:

Apples – Choose organic apples, since the conventional versions are one of the most pesticide-ridden fruits out there. Don’t wash until just before eating. Apples give off ethelyne gas that induces ripening in the fruits and veggies surrounding it. Keep them sealed in a plastic bag or stay-fresh bag in the refrigerator.

Asparagus – Think of these guys as little flowers! Prior to placing in the fridge, cut off about half an inch from the ends. Put water in the bottom of a jar to cover up to an inch. Place a baggie over the stalks to trap in some of the moisture. If not eaten any sooner, they should last for up to 2 weeks.

Bananas – Another ethelyne gas producer; keep these away from any other produce and store on the counter. Once ripened (brown spots begin to appear), you can place them in the fridge in a sealed bag. The skin will turn black, but the fruit will stay fresh. In addition, try freezing bananas (peeled and stored in a freezer-friendly container) and use them to make banana “ice cream”!

Berries – Do not wash until just before eating, as berries easily grow moldy if moist. Discard any bruised or molded berries before storing. Keep berries in a shallow container covered with plastic in the refrigerator.  Most containers that berries are sold in fit these criteria!

Broccoli – Do not wash broccoli or cauliflower before storing – the tightly bunched florets will hold water and may become moldy. Keep these cruciferous veggies in their packaging in the fridge.

Carrots – Wash carrots by scrubbing their skins thoroughly. Cut off any green tops leaving about one inch.  Wrap them in a damp paper towel and seal them in a bag or place in a sealed container with a shallow layer of water and place them in the crisper drawer.  This will prevent them from drying out and becoming limp.

Celery – After rinsing under water, wrap with a paper towel and then surround with aluminum foil. Store it in the crisper; it should stay crisp for weeks.

Citrus – These guys are versatile. Store in the fridge for about 2 weeks or on the counter for one. No need to separate from your other produce due to their thick skin.

Grapes – Grapes usually come in a perfect container for storage. If not, then poke some holes in a bag to allow air to circulate. Do not wash grapes until just before consuming. Store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks before they shrivel into raisins.

Leafy greens – You may either rinse these before storing or just before eating. Either way, include some wet paper towels along with the lettuces in a bag and place it in the high humidity crisper.

Peaches, Plums, Nectarines and Apricots – Is it just me or does it seem like peaches have a one-day window for its prime? To give you a few more days, do not wash until ready to eat. Store them at room temp until ripe and then place in a bag in the fridge. 3-5 days is the usual timespan, but if fresh, they may keep for longer.

Tomato – Store in a cool, dry place in the open air so their ethylene gas is not trapped. You may store them in the fridge once ripened, but allow them to reach room temp just prior to using.

To Refrigerate or Not to refrigerate?

Room Temperature

  • Avocados*
  • Apricots*
  • Bananas*
  • Citrus*
  • Garlic
  • Kiwi*
  • Melons*
  • Nectarines*
  • Onions
  • Pears*
  • Peaches*
  • Plums*
  • Pineapple*
  • Potatoes
  • Tomato*

* May be stored in the refrigerator once ripe to extend shelf life

Refrigerate

  • Apples~
  • Asparagus~
  • Berries~
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower~
  • Celery
  • Cherries~
  • Corn~
  • Cucumber~
  • Eggplant~
  • Ginger~
  • Grapes~
  • Green Beans~
  • Jalapenos
  • Leafy Greens
  • Mushrooms~
  • Zucchini~

~ Do not wash until just before using

Still have questions? We’ve got answers!

  • Can It Be Frozen?

Certain fruits and veggies stand up to freezing temperatures better than others. By freezing produce at their peak of ripeness, you will end up with the best results. Remember frozen food can be no better than the food was before it was frozen!

In general:

Vegetables – Prepare veggies as you would for their intended use (rinse, trim, cut, etc.). Vegetables should be blanched prior to freezing in order to stop the enzymes that continue to ripen them. Blanching also helps get rid of dirt and bacteria, brightens the color, slows vitamin and mineral loss and wilts them for easier packing. Drain and dry well before placing in freezer-friendly containers.

Fruit – Allow fruit to ripen before freezing. Wash and dry thoroughly. Remove any rotting or un-ripened pieces as well as the core, pit, or stones as necessary. Cut into desired size.

Either solid-pack (if using large batches at a time; place in container and freeze) or loose-pack (for specific quantities; freeze spread out on a cookie sheet and then transfer to container) depending on your need. Be sure to leave some headspace in the container if solid-packed since foods expand as they freeze.

  • Can I cut around mold and safely eat the remaining portion?

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services, hard/firm fruits and vegetables can be salvaged, but softer produce cannot. Click here for more information.

My answer is throw it out. Why risk it? Molds have been shown to cause allergic reactions and respiratory troubles among potentially producing “mycotoxins” that will make you sick.

  • What about nuts?

Nuts and seeds contain oils that may go rancid over time, especially when exposed to heat. That being said, definitely store natural nut butters in the fridge. Whole nuts should be stored in dark, airtight, non-permeable containers to block out moisture, light, odors, and oxygen. Nuts will usually last in these containers on the counter (try to keep temps less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit) for 2-4 months. They can be refrigerated or frozen for about a year or more!

Stay tuned for our follow-up on packaged foods!

Registered Dietitian


Comments
This is probably the best article I've read on this subject. Thank you for educating all of us. I plan to print it out and keep in the kitchen for reference. :-)
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