March is National Nutrition Month® and this year’s theme from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is Go Further with Food. One area most of us could improve upon when it comes to this topic is using fresh produce before it ends up in the trash or compost bin.
5 Ways to Use Fresh Produce to Go Further with Food
- Oh-So-Ripe Bananas. When bananas start to turn brown on your counter, your first instinct might be to throw them away. Did you know, as bananas become extra ripe they get better for baking? This is because overripe bananas become sweeter so they’re perfect for mashing up to use in banana bread or muffin recipes. Or, slice them up to make banana, peanut butter and raisin roll-ups on a whole grain tortilla for a satisfying breakfast, lunch or snack. Another tip: overripe bananas can be frozen for smoothies.
- Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries & Beyond. If you’ve stocked up on fresh berries because of a great sale but simply can’t enjoy them fast enough, freeze your excess instead of letting them go to waste. Simply rinse berries, pat dry and layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to freeze. Once frozen, your berries can be transferred to a freezer bag and used for smoothies, sauces, desserts and more. For strawberries, remove the stem and cut larger berries in half before freezing for best results.
- Extra Aromatic Veggies. We’ve all had those recipes that call for just half an onion, one carrot or a few stalks of celery – but what should you do with the rest of those perfectly good veggies? To start, get in the habit of cutting them up all at once. That way, they’ll be ready to use and you’ll be more prone to adding them to future recipes. Have excess of all three? Finely dice carrots, onion and celery to create a mirepoix and place together in a freezer bag to freeze. When making stew or soup, your mirepoix will be ready to go.
- Avocados That Give. Is your avocado ripe and ready to enjoy before you’d like it to be? Slow down the process and give yourself an extra 5-7 days by placing whole avocados in the fridge. To prolong the life of avocados already cut in half, squeeze lemon juice over the flesh, tightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you’re looking to save mashed avocado (like guacamole) before it turns brown, try pouring a thin layer of water or milk over it, covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating. Just pour off liquid when ready to enjoy.
- Leafy Greens. These nutrient-packed veggies are great for salads but typically need to be used up in a few days. Get more from leafy greens before they begin to wilt by incorporating them into various recipes. Add spinach to your morning smoothie or omelet, kale to pasta or your favorite canned soup, and use arugula in place of basil to make pesto to top grilled chicken or homemade pizza.