It’s tempting to want to cut corners, particularly when it comes to making dinner — especially on hectic weekdays. When a trip to the grocery store often concludes in lugging home a hundred different vegetables and fruits that will then need to be washed and chopped, diced, or minced into perfection, it makes total sense that shoppers opt to buy pre-bagged produce.
Spinach, carrots, or even apples that come already sliced and stored in plastic bags can shave precious time from your dinner prep. But the trade-off is real: you are substituting nutrition for a quick and easy fix.
“Pre-bagged and chopped fruits and vegetables lose nutrients in the process of making them ready to eat,” says Dr. Keith Kantor, a leading nutritionist and CEO of Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating & Drinking (NAMED), a nutritional program. “Pre-cut, chopped or peeled salad kits, fruits and vegetables have a significantly lower nutrient value because the exterior protection is removed and the nutrients leaked out. The nutrient content decreases tremendously the longer the items sit out or the more they are handled in the shipping process.”
What’s worse: if the items you purchased are packed in syrup or lemon water, that can also change the flavor and nutritional integrity of the produce item, Kantor says. Pre-bagged whole fruits and vegetables like apples, oranges, grapefruit, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes in their most raw form are fine, Kantor says, because they have not been chopped or peeled and are safe and full of their original nutrients.
Kantor says pre-chopping and bagging produce is a marketing strategy for the grocery store to sell you the item in bulk and for the consumer to save a little money on a larger quantity. And, while we can deal with fewer minerals and vitamins in our veggies, there are few things less comforting that realizing bagged produce can contain a number of chemicals.
“Harmful chemicals such as, Bisphenol A (BPA), Phthalates or Vinyl chloride, which is found in plastic, could leach into the food, especially bagged produce,” Kantor. “It is best to buy produce in its most raw form — wash, chop, peel, and prepare closer to when you are going to consume them. Also bring your own reusable bags to the store instead of using plastic bags. Not only does this decrease the potential exposure to harmful chemicals but it is also safer for the environment.”
For more health tips, check out The single most unhealthy on the menu at In-And-Out is… and The one thing you should never do when drinking from a plastic water bottle.
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