Most stores these days including our supermarkets charge for plastic bags but ironically their product aisles are lined with fruits and veggies packaged in plastic, styrofoam or cellophane. The customer stands at the billing counter with his/her environment-friendly grocery bag holding iceberg lettuce/cucumbers encased in plastic sheets or apples packed in styrofoam casings. Whoa!
One must admit that there have been several initiatives to reduce plastic usage and citizens too are becoming more and more aware of the hazardous consequences of using plastic bags/things. Major cities around the country collect biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste separately. Despite such measures when certain community of people, shopkeepers and sales teams continue using plastic as often as before it’s a sight of pity and agony. All these aside, do the plastic-covered fruits and veggies offer as much nutritive values and health as fresh produce?
Hurry Burry World
All of us are busy in this world attending to office meetings, dropping and picking up children, taking care of the household and occupied with meeting friends that any of us would love to reduce the burden of cooking as much as possible. Pre-cut fruits and veggies come as the perfect solution to this. Its easier to pick diced cucumbers for salads, a mix of the French beans, cubed carrots and bell peppers for the pulao and some pineapple rings or papaya chunks for the dessert rather than washing the produce, cutting them in desired shapes and then preparing the meal. A few years back, finding pre-washed salad bags, ready-to-cook veggies and fruits in supermarket aisles was a rare occurrence but now it’s become a booming market.
Even before you reach the section of fresh fruits and vegetables you are attracted by rows and rows of colorful and neatly-packed produce stacked in racks. There are there to bluntly give you a signal of ‘Pick me, I am the best’ with their perfect wrapping, A1 packing and neatness oozing from their very existence. Right from orange carrots diced into small cubes, French beans chopped finely to juicy melons carefully deseeded and cut, you can find them all. Onions are one of those veggies that must be chopped right before using it to avoid bacteria, but we can see finely chopped onions or shallots minus their skin packed into small containers and sealed using plastic covers.
As Good as Seen?
Precut and prewashed produce are preferred mostly by those under the age of 50 trying to juggle a hundred things at a time. Looks can be deceptive and does this policy hold good for these precut veggies and fruits as well? We can see the ‘use by’ date clearly mentioned on the packaging, but does it exclude the picking, transporting, washing, packaging and chilling routines that’s happened before the packet lands on the supermarket aisle? Cost-wise too these packaged produces cost a lot more than your fresh ones, some are even double the rate as their fresh counterparts! We shell out money to save time but is this expenditure worth our health?
Cutting fruits and vegetables expose them to oxygen, light and heat-factors that might reduce vitamin retention compared to whole fruits and veggies. Water soluble vitamins (B and C) are likelier to reduce in value as water evaporates faster from cut produce comparatively. Update yourself on interesting information about these water-soluble vitamins from www.firsteatright.com. Many of the cut fruits and veggies are treated with fruit acids or enzymes to preserve their shape and texture after washing. It was not long ago that consumers wanted to pick and choose some produce that was fresh, unharmed, rightly ripened and without damaged, and agitated against packed produce but now the same consumer wants the produce not only packed in plastic wrap but also cut, cleaned, washed and sorted.
Pros Vs Cons
While precut fruits and vegetables might save our time, make cooking easier and motivate people to cook more at home rather than ordering from outside, they are a lot more expensive, lack the actual nutritive content, generate more unrecyclable trash, may contain traces of compounds sprayed on the produce to retain freshness and above all, doesn’t match the freshness or taste of whole fruits and vegetables. This is a great tactic used by the retailer as it improves sales, garners more income, incurs less damage as bruised/damaged produce is mixed with fresh ones when sold as a package and requires less labor in trimming rotten cabbage leaves or pulling our dry onion skin off the vegetable.
Vegetables and fruits are fresh when they are picked up from the farm and sold the very same day or next day without refrigeration. The pre-cut and pre-washed produce that are all glitzy and neatly packed can only have a fresh-like look and feel but never match the original freshness and quality of whole produce. It might be unreasonable to purchase farm-fresh veggies directly but at least we can choose whole fruits and vegetables over precut ones.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.