For overall health, eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is essential year-round. A good starting place in your quest for color can be the freezer case, regardless of the availability of fresh produce.  We are very fortunate to have a large international farmer’s market just a couple of miles from home.  Our family is in the habit of going there during the summer and fall to get farm-fresh fruits and vegetables.  Admitedly, it can be a bit harder during the off- season, when seasonal produce is less plentiful, to make sure that our plates are just as colorful.  That’s where the freezer and canned veggie isles of our local super market can help.

When you don’t have easy access to fresh produce, visit the frozen food section of your favorite grocery store. You will be rewarded in your quest for color (and nutrition) with a wide selection of tasty and healthy foods.  Frozen melon cubes, berries, peach slices and even pineapple chunks are available year-round. You may remember the mixed berries and strawberries I used for the Five Fruit Smoothie Recipe in a previous post.  Also, frozen spinach is one of my favorites for convenience-it is washed, cut and ready to be tossed into a soup or pasta dish.  From a nutritional standpoint, it has just as much vitamin A and fiber as fresh-cooked spinach.  Another staple in our freezer is broccoli.  Keeping this superfood on hand makes meal prep quick and easy on busy week nights throughout the whole year.

Next, stop in the canned fruit and vegetable aisle. “Our studies show that the nutrition value of canned fruits and vegetables is comparable to fresh and frozen varieties,” notes Barbara Klein, Ph.D., professor of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana.  Dr. Klein points out that the canning process does not affect the amount of fiber in fruits and vegetables.  Canned pumpkin, apricots and other orange fruits and vegetables are a rich source of vitamin A.  “In fact, vitamin A levels in canned pumpkin are much higher than in fresh cooked because canned pumpkin is less watery and more concentrated,” says Dr. Klein.  Just one cautionary reminder – read labels to make sure you’re getting the lowest amounts of sodium and added sugar possible here.

Finally, visit the cereal aisle. New technology for freeze-drying fruit enables cereal makers to add berries and other types of fruit to their products.  A bowl of Total® (whole grain cereal) with Strawberries is a great way to brighten up breakfast.  Top with sliced banana, slivers of dried apricots or a medley of dried berries for even more nutrition.  Dried fruit is a concentrated form of fresh and retains healthy nutrients like fiber and potassium.

Here are a few simple ways to add color to your plate:

  • Toss sliced radicchio, red onion and yellow or orange peppers into a green salad.
  • Sauté frozen spinach together with minced onion; top with pine nuts, golden raisins and a dash of Apple Cider or balsamic vinegar.
  • Simmer slices of yellow and red apples and pears with a dash of apple cider and maple syrup until soft; top with toasted walnuts and or crushed Whole Grain Total® cereal for added flavor and crunch.
  • Add frozen mixed vegetables to your favorite soup.

Use these ideas to keep your plate colorful and your meal-times interesting all year-round, no matter what the weather may be doing outside.

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