IS FRESH BEST?

By Gina Keilen, Culinary Services Registered Dietitian 

It’s a well-known fact for most people that fruits and veggies are good things to eat. We, in Michigan, are wrapping up a pretty great, however short-lived, time when fresh produce is available. Gardens are getting picked over, farmers markets are closing, and the local options in our grocery stores may not be as plentiful. With fall and winter soon approaching, is the fresh option at the store still the best? Not necessarily.

Getting fruits or veggies in forms other than fresh is not a bad thing at all. It’s likely to actually be better for you. Especially in the months when Michigan produce is not the best, the canned, frozen, or dried alternatives were packaged at their peak nutritional value so they are likely to have more vitamins and minerals than off-season fresh foods. When produce has to be shipped from around the world to come here, it is picked so it can ripen while it travels, but that’s before the nutritional quality can develop and it never recovers. So, the fresh fruit may look amazing and ripe, but nutritionally, it’s not quite as pretty. Not only this, but buying produce out of season can be costly. With most people on college campuses counting pennies, buying them in other forms may help. Canned, frozen or dried fruits and veggies also have longer shelf lives. There is nothing more disappointing than buying fresh food with good intentions, just to throw them out because you didn’t eat them before they spoiled.

Lucky for us on campus, we have the MSU Student Organic Farm and the Bailey GREENHouse & Urban Farm that help supply some of our halls with fresh produce year-round. We also offer fresh fruit (both whole and cut up) in all our dining halls at all three meals, 100 percent valencia orange juice and apple juice in our dining halls, fruit and yogurt smoothies in several halls, or you can visit Sparty’s for a veggie cup or 100 percent fruit and vegetable drink.

Some people have a hard time getting past the stigma of canned or frozen foods. What’s important to remember is it doesn’t matter which way you eat your fruits and veggies … something is better than nothing and it’s eating them that’s the important part! 

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Gina Keilen is a registered dietitian and culinary coordinator for Culinary Services. If you have food allergies or intolerances, or are required to follow a special diet, Gina can help provide you with resources and information to help you make safe choices while still having a great dining experience when you Eat at State. Gina can also help you to eat healthy—our dining halls offer an incredible amount of all-you-care-to-eat options. Since many of our platforms offer made-to-order dining, you are in control of what you eat and how much, and Gina can help you decide what is right for you.