Progressive Grocer

JAN 2017

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22 | Progressive Grocer | Ahead of What's Next | January 2017 F rom apples to arugula, limes to leeks, and peaches to persimmons, the produce section is loaded with varying tastes, textures, colors and nutrition. Many times, this is the average shopper's first stop on their grocery trip, and it should convey freshness and healthfulness. Key considerations that your shoppers have when selecting produce include nutrition, shelf life and usage. As conveyed by ChooseMyPlate, a simpli- f ied version of the 2015-20 USDA Dietar y Guidelines for Americans, half of America's plate should be fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce packs a punch: delivering f iber and essential vitamins and minerals, while keeping saturated fat, sodium and dietar y cholesterol low. Furthermore, some classic associations of animal-based foods, including dairy and calcium, poultry and protein, and meat and iron, can be challenged by the plant kingdom: For instance, kale is a good source of calcium, peas contain protein, and spinach pro- vides iron. e rainbow of colors in produce also offers benefits in the form of compounds called phytochemicals, which may help pre- vent cancer, control inflammation and support eye health. With the com- ing of the new year, many customers may be interested in foods that aid weight loss, and the produce section is a terrific start- ing point. Most fruits and vegetables are low in energy density (calories) and high in nutrient density. Many fresh fruits and vegetables act as a natural weight management tool, forcing the customer to peel, chop or cut the product before eating, while often the volume and moisture content of produce slow down the rate of consumption. According to a recent position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, plant-based diets that emphasize fruits and vegetables — as well as whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts — are associated with a lower body mass index (BMI). All's By Molly Hembree A diet including a variety of fruits and vegetables presents strong support for shoppers' best health. Longer Life Shelf life could also be a factor in whether a fruit or vegetable is purchased. e Food Marketing Institute's Food Keeper tool notes that many fruits and vegetables, including melons, pineapple, cucumber, eggplant and tomatoes, are best in quality and flavor if stored at room temperature and eaten within one to three days. However, these and others, among them mushrooms, berries, celery and radishes, have their shelf lives extended by up to two to four weeks when placed in the fridge at home. Shoppers may also find it helpful to know what to do with produce that's still safe near the end of its shelf life, such as wilted greens, overripe bananas or lackluster stone fruit. ese items do well in soups, baked goods or dessert creations, respectively. Perhaps most importantly, the best pick in produce means a fruit or veggie that the customer feels confident using. e average consumer may feel comfortable constructing a sandwich with onion slic- es, throwing raspberries in oatmeal or dipping baby carrots in dressing, but how about roasting earthy Brussels sprouts, breaking open a sour pomegranate or using savory jackfruit as a meat substitute? Retailers can build awareness of unique fruits and vegetables through creative sampling and food dem- onstrations, which can increase the appeal of your produce department and promote a bigger basket size. Keep in mind that meeting fruit and veg- etable recommenda- tions can be achieved in different ways. e Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) encourages consumers to eat produce in all of its forms via its Fresh, Frozen, Canned, Dried, 100% Juice: It All Matters! promotion. A diet including a variety of fruits and vegetables pres- ents strong support for shoppers' best health. Whether picking out produce based on routine, request or recipe, your customers want nutritious, fresh and versatile items to be always available in your produce department. PG Molly Hembree, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian coordinator for The Little Clinic and Kroger. Best Produce for Wellness Help shoppers get the most from fresh fruits and veggies.

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