Buying and Storing Food Guidelines for Maximum Nutrition

Feeding a family is a costly business these days so it’s important to get the best food value possible for your money. Here are 40 tips on buying and storing foods to gain maximum nutrition:

  1. Don’t over buy fruit and vegetables – vitamin content is lost with storage. Buy just what you need, keep refrigerated, and eat while food is fresh. This particularly applies to leafy green vegetables; even a few hours exposure to light will mean a marked loss of vitamin C.
  2. Wrap meat and poultry loosely when storing in the refrigerator, to allow air circulation. If tightly wrapped, they will quickly lose freshness and quality.
  3. Do not wash eggs – washing removes the thin natural protective film. Store with the large end up, to keep the yolk centered.
  4. If packages such as cereal, rice, pasta are not finished quickly once opened, store the contents in airtight containers to retain freshness and nutrition.
  5. Pot roasts, or hearty stews, where meat and vegetables cook together, are full of nutrition. Vitamins from the vegetables remain in the sauce.
  6. Some children prefer raw vegetables. When preparing a meal, give them raw carrot sticks or small celery pieces, then a small portion of cooked vegetables.
  7. For a nourishing soup, cook vegetables – carrots, potatoes, onions, spinach, etc. – in chicken stock with a little rice added. When vegetables are tender, whirl the whole soup in the blender; add some chopped parsley.
  8. Don’t discard trimmings of meat, vegetables, etc. – use them for flavoring stocks and sauces.
  9. If preparing vegetables beforehand, don’t leave them soaking in water; put into plastic bags and keep refrigerated. Cook as soon as possible. Soaking vegetables, cooking them in too much water, overcooking and discarding the vegetable water all result in loss of valuable vitamins.
  10. Don’t add bicarbonate of soda when cooking green vegetables – this destroys vitamin C and some B vitamins.
  11. Do not add salt to water when cooking vegetables; it draws out vitamins and minerals. Salt when cooked.
  12. Don’t buy frozen fish that shows any signs of having been thawed and refrozen – frozen drips, soaked packaging or a distinct fishy smell. This means loss of vitamins and quality.
  13. Darker-colored vegetables are generally more nutritious and richer in vitamins than light ones. Dark green salad leaves have more vitamin A and iron than light, orange carrots more vitamin A than yellow.
  14. For preference, buy whole grain, enriched, or fortified breads, pasta, cereals and flours.
  15. Lean meats contain more protein, vitamins and minerals than fatter cuts, kilo for kilo.
  16. Inspect packages for “sell before” dates, particularly on dairy products. Buy newest to ensure freshness and most vitamin B.
  17. It makes no difference to nutrition whether eggshells are brown or white.
  18. A vegetable peeler allows you to take off the skin only, saving nourishing food.
  19. When shopping, choose only fruit and vegetables that are fresh. If they’re wilted, bruised or old, they’ll have fewer vitamins.
  20. The liquid you pour from both freshly cooked and canned foods contains many water-soluble vitamins which can be used for soups, gravies and sauces.
  21. Another way to hoard water-soluble vitamins is to cook vegetables like cabbage, zucchini or baby squash in a covered saucepan with a little hot oil (make sure they don’t stick to the pan). Remove from heat and eat when they’re still slightly crisp.
  22. Save the water in which vegetables were cooked so that if you have any left over, you can reheat them in it to cut down on vitamin loss.
  23. If you want to get the best out of them, don’t overcook meat and fish. Settle for meat that’s rare rather than well done, and fish cooked just till tender.
  24. When you wash rice, either before or after you cook it, you are washing away some of the B vitamins.
  25. Wait until after you’ve boiled your potatoes to peel them, and you’ll retain vitamins which otherwise would be lost in cooking.
  26. When you strain orange juice after you’ve squeezed it, you lose something like 25 percent of the nutrients it originally contained. Drink it straight.
  27. You’ll be surprised how good vegetables taste if you cook them in the very minimum amount of water until they’re just done, but still crisp. You’ll save B and C vitamins, also other water-solubles like thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
  28. Because it’s usually the most costly item in the food budget, meat should be carefully stored. Fresh meat, fish and poultry should be kept in the refrigerator until they’re to be cooked. Any meat you don’t intend using for two or three days should go straight into the freezer. Minced meat, poultry and fish should go there unless you intend using it within 24 hours.
  29. If you’ve poured milk into a jug for serving, or a pan for warming — don’t put any you have left over back into the original bottle or carton; it will lessen the life of what’s left in the original container.
  30. Vegetables generally are best stored in the compartment provided for them in your refrigerator. If short of room there, store in refrigerator in plastic bags which will keep moisture in and slow wilting.
  31. If you intend keeping meat in your freezer for longer than a fortnight you’ll need to wrap it in foil, as well as plastic, to maintain flavor and prevent dehydration.
  32. Milk should be stored in your fridge in the bottle or carton it came in.
  33. Before storing, cut tops and root tips from carrots, beetroot, radishes, etc. They’ll keep better, wilt less.
  34. There’s no need to refrigerate potatoes, onions, carrots or sweet potatoes. They’re best kept in a cool place (temperature around 10°C).
  35. Don’t shell peas or remove husks from corn until you’re ready to use them.
  36. Once tomatoes start to age they lose vitamin C, so use as soon as possible. They should be stored in fridge. If they’re still greenish, ripen at room temperature first.
  37. Store leftover vegetables in your fridge and use as soon as possible.
  38. Tinned foods should be stored in a cool, dry atmosphere (around 18°C). As nutritive value gradually decreases with age, store newly bought items behind earlier purchases so you use in correct order. Dating them helps. Don’t freeze canned foods.
  39. Whether it’s canned, reconstituted frozen or freshly squeezed, orange juice is best kept refrigerated.
  40. To keep berries (strawberries, blackberries, mulberries) in top condition and conserve vitamin C, handle as little as possible. Store in refrigerator and don’t wash or hull them till you’re ready to use them.
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