By Sarah de Jonge and Jessica Bihari
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a daily healthy eating pattern. Not only do they contain important nutrients such as fibre, minerals and vitamins, but eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruit may lower your risk of heart disease.1 Try to include fruits and vegetables as part of your daily eating habits. Find delicious options at your local farmers’ market, farm gate produce stands, a local CSA or grocery store. Whether fresh, frozen or canned, the Canada Food Guide recommends that you try to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit.2
While it is very important to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, it is just as important to prepare them safely by taking the time to wash them. Although fruits and vegetables do not naturally contain harmful microorganisms, they can become contaminated in the field or through improper handling or storing.1 To properly wash fruits and vegetables, start by washing your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Then wash ALL fruits and vegetables under fresh, cool, running water (even if you won’t be eating the outer rind). This is especially important if the produce will be eaten raw. Use a clean produce brush for food with a firm surface. It is not necessary to use a cleanser or other products to clean your vegetables; using clean drinking water is sufficient.1 It is also not necessary to wash leafy greens if they are purchased in sealed containers that state they were pre-washed.1 Be sure to use a clean knife and cutting board to cut your produce and store any leftover chopped fruits and vegetables in the fridge.
At Public Health, we recognize that it is becoming more expensive to eat a healthy diet. Provincially, Ontario’s food prices increased by 2.7% in 2018 alone and are predicted to increase further in 2019.3 In our region, the cost of a month’s worth of nutritious food for a family of four is $855.30.4 Research shows that when a person’s budget is tight, food is one of the first expenses to be cut. Being unable to purchase nutritious food due to financial challenges can increase a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases.5 If you are on a tight budget, try to buy fruits and vegetables in season, find them ‘just passed peak’ in the discount produce section and remember that frozen or canned produce can be just as nutritious as fresh.
For more information on produce safety, visit Health Canada’s website.
1Health Canada. Produce Safety [Internet]. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada; 2019
[cited 2019 July 16]
2Government of Canada. Canada’s Food Guide [Internet]. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada; 2019 [cited 2019 July 16]. Available from: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/3Dalhousie University; University of Guelph. Canada’s food price report 2019. Halifax, NS and Guelph, ON: Dalhousie University and University of Guelph; 2019. Available from: