Supermarkets are currently eliminating -or trying to eliminate- plastic bags, but their produce sections are overflowing with disposable clamshell cases, Styrofoam trays and cellophane. And what’s up with the pre-cut produce?
Last things first: Pre-cut produce is more expensive and it offers less nutrition for your buck. “Cutting fruits or vegetables exposes them to oxygen and light, and sometimes heat, all of which affect vitamin retention in food,” says Caroline West Passerrello, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Whole fruits and vegetables retain their vitamins and other nutrients longer than those that have been sliced and diced.
Water soluble vitamins, like B and C, are most at risk because water will evaporate faster from cut produce. It’s always a better idea to chop on demand and store any leftover produce in an air-tight container.
And by the way, buying bagged greens isn’t likely any safer for you. It’s no coincidence that many food contamination scares come from pre-cut bagged lettuces. Torn leaves are more likely to contain bacteria because there are more edges to contaminate, says West Passarello. Plus, a warm, moist, and sealed environment is a perfect incubator for e. coli, salmonella, and listeria.
An article on menshealth.com advises its readers to buy whole-leaf greens like spinach or arugula, or shred lettuce yourself right before eating. Better yet, cut only as much as you need and store the rest in a plastic bag in the crisper.
Organic foods must be packaged
To maintain organic certification from both the manufacturer and retailer, organic items cannot touch conventional ones, which is why they’re often packaged. See supermarket food sold as organic that isn’t in a package? It might be mislabeled. One exception: organic fruit sold aft farmers’ markets direct to consumers don’t require packaging.