How to Choose the Best Fruits and Vegetables

Summertime is when we have the widest variety of fruits and vegetables locally in season. August, being an especially hot month, makes it the perfect time for enjoying produce raw or grilled outdoors. Buying in-season produce is the first strategy
for getting the most delicious of Earth’s bounty.

What’s In-Season in August?

Corn, bell peppers, avocado, cucumbers, eggplant, cauliflower, okra, zucchini, blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries, raspberries, melons, mangos, nectarines, peaches, plums, tomatoes

What is Wabi-Sabi Produce?

You tell your kids not to judge a book by its cover, but can you judge a bell pepper based on appearances? You can and should. As a general rule, choose the smallest and most deeply colored fruits and vegetables in the piles. These ones contain the most vitamins and nutrients. This is counter intuitive because the most attractive berries are the giant ones. The smaller berries, however, are tastier and contain more nutrients per bite. When I shop, I look for wabi-sabi produce. Wabi-sabi, a Japanese word, is a comprehensive world view that does not translate easily. Characteristics of wabi-sabi include asymmetry, roughness, irregularity and appreciating beauty due to imperfection. Heirloom tomatoes come to mind. Organic and farmer’s market selections may have more scaring and abnormal shapes. This shouldn’t be a deterrent. Supermarket produce has been grown with more pesticides or genetically modified seeds to achieve produce with perfect skin and shape. As long as there is no bruising or punctures, enjoy small, deeply colored,
wabi-sabi bell peppers…they are healthier for you! Melons are the exception. Smaller, darker melons are not ripe. Melons
should smell sweet.

Next, check to see if it looks like it fell off the vine (ripe) or was pulled off. When it comes to watermelons, tap with your middle finger;
the melon should sound hollow. How Do I Get My Kids to Try It? Getting kids involved in meal planning is a proven way to foster
cooperation at the dinner table. A family outing to the farmer’s market is another way to get children interested in eating produce. Encourage kids to pick anything that interests them and look online for ways to prepare it. The only rule being that everyone at the table must try it. Use this as a positive way to encourage adventurous eating rather than a threat…as in, “If I buy this, you better eat it.”

Be open-minded. When was the last time you tried something new? Parents who try new things have children who are willing to try new
things. Avoid saying things like, “Don’t those look weird,” or “I don’t think you are going to like that.” These discouraging statements suggest to a child that what in unknown is probably not good or worth trying It may take several exposures to a new food before a child decides to like it. If parents fail to provide opportunities to try new things, a child will never develop a taste for okra.

Serve something familiar in a new way. Cut peaches in half and grill them for a few minutes, for example. Serving the same foods, the same way, all the time, causes kids to become close-minded to any unfamiliar

Don’t cover it up. Children naturally enjoy raw foods, and summer vegetables are so tasty they don’t need seasonings. Children who are not served dressings and dips eat more vegetables and try new vegetables more often than kids who will only eat a vegetable if it is covered with ranch dressing. Children who have become accustomed to dips favor processed, fatty, salty flavors. If you wean your children off dips you may find they become more open-minded about vegetables

Wrap corn on the cob in foil and grill it plain. Corn is very sweet and after a couple of times, no one will miss the butter.

Danielle Federico, M.P.H. is the author of “MOMMY FABULOUS:
Complete Pregnancy Fitness and Nutrition Guide, Designed to Deliver a Fabulous
Postpartum Figure.” ( She holds a Masters of Public Health from
UC Berkeley and is a personal trainer and nutritional counselor. Danielle’s popular
blog provides nutrition, health and fitness information for anyone looking to lead a healthier life.