#253 Keeping It Fresh

Tell a friend

I asked the waiter 'Is this milk fresh?'
He said, 'Lady, three hours ago it was grass.'

Phyllis Diller

8 Tips for Storing Fresh Foods

By Steve Edwards

Fruit VeggiesIf you glance at news headlines, you've probably read "Americans don't eat enough fruits and veggies" and how we should eat more fresh foods. There's no better time to improve on this than during the summer, when we have enough choices for even the pickiest of us to find something we like. One of the main problems with fresh foods is their life span. You need to buy only what you can eat right away, which doesn't always fit into our hectic lifestyles. And while fruits and veggies are not expensive, they quickly become so if you waste half of what you buy. Here are eight tips to help you stretch every penny while improving your health.

  1. Grocery StorePlan ahead. Try and make a trip to the market every five days. Most fruits and veggies will stay fresh and edible at least this long. If you're on a schedule, you'll know you've got to eat all you've purchased prior to the next trip, which is a pretty helpful tool for staying on a healthy diet. If you're a once-a-week shopper, read on. We'll provide some tips for squeezing a few more days out of your perishables.

  2. SunriseTime your shopping. By shopping early or late in the day, when temperatures are cooler, you can expand the life span of fresh foods. This is particularly useful if you use your local farmers' market—which you should, because these foods tend to be fresher, cheaper, and of better quality. Getting to the market early gives you the pick of the litter and expands the time the foods will stay fresh.

  3. CoolersCoolers aren't just for beer. If your schedule demands midday shopping, you can minimize its effects by keeping a cooler in your car. Keep an ice pack in your freezer and remember to grab it before you head to the market and toss it in the cooler. Sure, this makes it hard to hit the store on a whim but it will force you to plan better, which has no downside. If you need another reminder, shop with reusable bags. If you have two things to remember, you'll lessen your odds of forgetting. Plus, some markets reward you for using them.

  4. FridgeAll parts of the fridge are not created equal. Unfortunately, all those cool compartments in the doors are not the most efficient way to store most things. It's colder in the deep recesses, so store the most sensitive items in the back. This is especially true for eggs because the "special" egg slots are almost always in the door. Don't use them. Store your eggs in their original carton in the deepest corner of the fridge. (Click here to read more about eggs.) Separate your foods in the fridge, too. Fruits and veggies should not touch one another. In fact, it's best if nothing is touching each other. But fruits and veggies should be stored in different drawers because fruits emit ethylene, which causes veggies to rot quicker.

  5. SinkPrep your food. Some foods do better if you prepare them, others not, but taking a few minutes when you get home to organize your groceries will help you get the most for your money. Think of it as a coupon you don't have to remember to bring to the store.

    LettuceMost plants are better left in the state you bought them until ready to use, but there are some exceptions. Salad greens, for one, should be prepped prior to storage. Wash them—preferably in salt water—and then spin them dry in a salad spinner. Then separate the leaves with paper towels and store in zip-lock bags. This can keep your greens fresh for up to a week.

    HerbsHerbs, as well, benefit from some prep work. For leafy herbs, unbind them and separate and toss anything soft or discolored. Then place them in a glass jar, stems down in water, as if you were arranging flowers. Then cover loosely with a plastic bag.

    Cut FruitBuy cut fruits and vegetables only when ready for use. Cutting produce too far in advance exposes it to air-accelerating bacterial growth.

  6. Lime SplashTo wash or not to wash? Contrary to what your market does for aesthetics, don't wash most fruits and veggies prior to storage. And if they are wet from the market, dry them off and then store them in your crisper drawer between layers of paper towels. This will keep them fresh for up to 10 days. If you leave them wet, they'll mildew in less than half that time.

  7. TomatoWhat to leave out of the fridge. Some items do better at room temperature. Potatoes are one. Tomatoes are another, though this is debated. What isn't debated is that you should store them stem down no matter where you put them. Most fruits should be taken out of the fridge a day or two prior to eating them, since they are generally sold just short of ripe and they ripen more quickly at room temperature.

  8. Milk BottlesContainment. Science is your friend when it comes to maximizing the life of fresh foods. Here are a few examples. Glass stores dairy better than the cartons they come in. Transferring your milk to glass containers will both improve its taste and double its life span. The same goes for cheese. And we've vastly improved upon the traditional Tupperware and Saran Wrap storing methods. New storage bags and plastic containers extend life by allowing produce to breathe. Some are even designed to absorb ethylene gases. There are also other devices that you can place in the fridge to absorb ethylene. Taking a few minutes at the market to study the latest technology can make it easier than ever to maximize your food's potential.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

Steve Edwards

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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10 Sensational Seasonals

By Joe Wilkes

Veggie IntroYes, yet again, we at Beachbody are imploring you to eat your vegetables. Low in calories, but high in fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients, fresh vegetables should always be a part of a healthy diet (Click here to read "6 Reasons to Eat Your Vegetables"). But, now that spring has sprung, there's an even better reason to eat your veggies—they taste great! Here in Los Angeles, it's not uncommon to see the city's top chefs foraging through the local farmers' markets, as May is the month when some of the best seasonable vegetables are available for the eating. Here are some you can get now while they're at their peak.

  1. ArtichokesArtichokes. The globe artichoke, a member of the thistle family, is so beautiful, that some markets are selling them after they bloom as a decorative purple flower. But the floral enthusiasts are missing out on the delicious leaves of the unopened artichoke, not to mention potassium and vitamin A. To prepare a large artichoke, trim the stem so it has a flat base, then steam, covered, in a pot with a small amount of water until the bottom is tender. Then, peel the leaves one by one and scrape the meaty bottoms with your teeth, discarding the inedible part of the leaf. You can make a healthy dip for the leaves with some nonfat yogurt mixed with fresh minced garlic and/or some Dijon mustard. Small baby artichokes are also available and are great sautéed or roasted.

  2. ArugulaArugula. This spicy member of the mustard family can zip up any salad. It is full of vitamin C and iron with hardly any calories. While most people only use it raw in salad, it can also be wilted into pasta dishes, chopped into pesto, or added to soups. You can also substitute for spinach in recipes for a unique flavor.

  3. AsparagusAsparagus.This favorite has a short season which we're right in the middle of. Both the traditional green spears and the more exotic grown-in-the-dark white asparagus contain high levels of potassium, folic acid, and fiber, with hardly any calories and lots of flavor. Asparagus also has a mild diuretic effect, which can aid with any bloating issues. For easy preparation, cut off the fibrous ends and wrap in an aluminum foil pouch with a little olive oil, lemon juice, and your favorite blend of garlic and herbs. Roast in the oven (about 10 minutes at 450 degrees) or on the grill until tender, but still bright green and somewhat crisp. Cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the spears.

  4. Fava BeansFava beans. Serve these with a nice chianti, and you can ensure that your guests will be at least a little nervous about the meat dish. These broad bean pods do require extra effort as their tough shells must be removed prior to cooking (this is an excellent opportunity to employ child labor). You'll be rewarded for the hard work with delicious legumes, a 3/4-cup serving of which contains 85% of your RDA of fiber and 30% of iron. They are higher in calories (about 300 a serving) than most vegetables, but their high fiber content makes up for that. They're great steamed or boiled, added to soups and pasta dishes, or pureed into spreads.

  5. Green GarlicGreen garlic. Most of us are familiar with the white bulbous vampire repellent, but we rarely see them in their young state. Similar in appearance to scallions, green garlic has a very short season which is quickly coming to an end. It is much milder than mature garlic, and can be substituted for its older relative in any recipe where you want a more delicate flavor. The tender green parts can be chopped and added to soups, omelets, or any place you would use scallions, leeks, or garlic bulbs. Click here to read more about members of the allium family.

  6. KohlrabiKohlrabi. The name comes from a combination of the German words for cabbage and turnip. Its flavor is similar to cabbage with a texture more similar to broccoli or cauliflower stems. The smaller the kohlrabi, the more tender. It's low in calories, high in fiber, and contains vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, copper, and folic acid. It can be used as an ingredient variation of its namesake cousins in many recipes, such as cole slaw, or it can be roasted, steamed, boiled, or stir-fried.

  7. Mustard GreensMustard greens. This soul-food staple contains lots of great antioxidants and minerals like chromium, iron, and zinc and is high in vitamins A and K. They can taste bitter, so they're best when cooked for a long period of time. The traditional soul-food preparations often include high-fat, high-calorie ingredients like ham hocks, bacon, and brown sugar. Instead of these ingredients, try cutting the bitterness with a dash of some balsamic vinegar, Tabasco sauce, or lemon juice with a tiny pinch of salt. Click here for more tips on preparing greens.

  8. PeasPeas. Among the most popular canned and frozen vegetables, peas were at the vanguard of both preservation technologies. This is largely because of their exceedingly short growing season. But if you want to sample peas untouched by the Jolly Green Giant, now's your chance. And you haven't had peas, until you've eaten them fresh. A cup of peas has more than half your RDA of vitamin K, plus a lot of manganese, vitamin C, thiamin, and fiber all for only 134 calories. Sweet and flavorful, peas are great prepared simply, lightly steamed or blanched and served on their own, or as an addition to salads, soups, and stews.

  9. RadicchioRadicchio. Also known as Italian chicory, radicchio is bought in heads of beautiful ruby-and-white-streaked leaves. In ancient times it was considered a blood and liver purifier. It contains high levels of magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A. Like arugula, it is mostly eaten raw in salads, but that's just the tip of the iceberg for how it can be prepared. The heads can be marinated and grilled, sautéed in olive oil and tossed with pasta, or can even be used as a pizza topping.

  10. RhubarbRhubarb. Many people mistakenly regard rhubarb as a fruit, as it is frequently used in pies, jams, and even for wine. But it is a vegetable and quite a healthy one. It's high in vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. In its pie, jam, or wine forms, the health benefits of the plant are somewhat mitigated, but there are lots of other healthier ways to get your rhubarb on—including in soup, salad, salsa, or pickled. Sautéed, its tangy flavor makes a great accompaniment for fish.

So get to the farmers' market or grocery store, while you can still get these veggies at the top of their game. And if we haven't sold you on the benefits of vegetables yet, you better not forget to take your ActiVit Multivitamins!

Joe Wilkes

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Fruit and Veggie IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

True or False?

  1. Apple BananaFALSE: Apples are the most popular fruit in America. Bananas have apples beat hands down. Americans consume about 33 pounds of bananas a year per person. Which is not a bad thing, as they contain high amounts of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.

  2. SunflowerTRUE: The artichoke is a member of the sunflower family. Artichokes and sunflowers are both members of the thistle family. The artichoke is native to the Mediterranean and Canary Islands. Its Latin name, Cynara scolymus, comes from a legend of a young girl, Cynara, discovered by the god Zeus, who in typical fashion, seduced her; moved her into a Mt. Olympus-adjacent home (for easy cheating access when his wife was out of town); and when, homesick, she snuck back to Earth, turned her into what we now call an artichoke in a fit of rage. Zeus could be a real jerk.

  3. OkraFALSE: Ladyfingers are another name for Jerusalem artichokes. Actually, they are a slang term for the humble okra. A staple in African cuisine, they are rarely eaten in America except in Cajun and Creole cuisine. It is the okra that gives gumbo its unique gelatinous texture. They are high in fiber and have lots of vitamins.

  4. Apple BobbingTRUE: In ancient Greece, if a man threw an apple at a woman, it meant he wanted to marry her. Today, the prospective groom would just be booked for assault. But back in the day, you could throw assorted produce at a woman and it meant all kinds of good things. In other apple history, the ancient unmarried Celts started the practice of bobbing for apples. The superstition was that whoever got the first apple would be the next to be married.

  5. Mel BlancFALSE: Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny was allergic to carrots. An urban myth has long circulated that he was allergic, but in fact he just didn't like them. He tried eating other vegetables like celery, when voicing the cartoon hare, but nothing had that distinctive carrot-y crunch. So he would eat the carrot, say Bugs' line, then spit the carrot in the garbage while they stopped tape.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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