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You do your best to select nutrient-rich foods for your family. What happens to those nutrients once you arrive home and prepare that food?

The method used to store, prepare, and cook can all affect a food’s nutrient profile. Since you can waste those nutrients, here are some ways to maximize the nutritional quality of the foods you and your family are eating.

Use as little water as possible when cooking vegetables.

“Water-soluble vitamins are easily dissolved when they hit water,” says Alissa Rumsey, a New York-based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The less you use, the more you preserve the nutrients. Instead of boiling in an uncovered pot of water, try microwaving or steaming them instead.”

Refrigerate leftover food in airtight, moisture-proof containers. When cooked food is exposed to air, more nutrients are lost.

Purchase frozen fruits or vegetables at this time of year.

“The fruit or vegetable is picked at the height of ripeness, then quickly frozen, which preserves the vitamins and minerals,” says Rumsey. “Often, frozen vegetables and fruits can have higher nutrient content than their fresh counterparts, especially if that fresh produce was picked a few weeks ago.”

When preparing beets, carrots, broccoli, or other whole vegetables, use the entire plant from root to stem. This reduces food waste, as well.

Store veggies and fruit in airtight containers in the fridge. In addition to the cold temperature, high humidity and less air contact lessens nutrient loss.

What NOT to do:

Avoid boiling vegetables in large amounts of water and then tossing that water.

“You’re throwing away many of the water-soluble vitamins,” says Rumsey.

Don’t cut vegetables into tiny pieces. This exposes more of the surface to air, light, heat, and water, bringing with it a higher chance of losing nutrients.

An interesting exception to this rule of thumb: garlic and other members of the allium family (onions, leeks and shallots). By chopping these foods into tiny pieces and allowing them to sit for 10 minutes before cooking, you actually increase their active components.

Don’t cook veggies for a long time. To cut down on cooking times, cover the pot, place veggies in already boiling water, and learn to enjoy them with a bit of a crunchy texture.

The most important way to optimize your family’s nutrient intake, however, is to simply eat more produce.

Christine Palumbo is a Naperville-registered dietitian nutritionist who has long made saving nutrients her mission. Follow her on Twitter @PalumboRD, Facebook at Christine Palumbo Nutrition, or Chris@ChristinePalumbo.com.

Mediterranean potato soup

Serves four

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ready Time: 35 minutes


1 ½ tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup chopped onion

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

3 medium red potatoes, unpeeled, cubed

3 carrots, sliced

¼ tsp ground pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 15-oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup (2 ounces) whole wheat noodles, uncooked

2 cups fresh spinach or 1 cup frozen spinach

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS: Heat oil in a 2-quart pot, sauté garlic and onions about three to four minutes. Add chicken broth, water, potatoes, carrots and seasonings; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add kidney beans and noodles. Bring to boil again, cook until noodles are soft. Remove from heat.

Just before serving, add spinach to pot and stir gently. Ladle into bowls and serve with Parmesan cheese.

NUTRITION FACTS: 350 calories, 62 g carbohydrates, 19 g protein, 5 g fat, 62 mg cholesterol, 1510 mg potassium, 420 mg sodium, 38% DV vitamin C, 14 g fiber.

Recipe used with permission by: Colorado Potato Administrative Committee

Updated 4:59 pm, July 9, 2018
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