Make the most of your produce: Fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies are the perfect treat. Here's how to get creative with them, and how to best harness their powerful nutrients.
Freezing brings out the sweetness of the fruit, and the cool temperature reminds you to slow down while eating.
Fresh strawberries are always a treat, and you can find locally grown varieties throughout the summer in most areas. Unfortunately, conventionally grown strawberries rank among the top 10 pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables, so always choose organic. Look for berries that are red all the way to the tip, a sign that they're fully ripe (strawberries don't ripen after picking). One cup of sliced strawberries has 53 calories.
You'd never guess it from the buttery texture, but pears deliver 6 grams of fiber -- almost a quarter of the fiber you need each day.
To determine whether a pear is ready to eat, gently press near the stem end with your finger. If it yields slightly, the pear is good to go. Eat it alone or, thinly sliced, atop whole-grain bread with 4 teaspoons almond butter, as shown. Makes 1 serving (217 calories).
Find oranges at their peak between December and midspring. Choose fruit that's heavy for its size (indicating juiciness), firm, and evenly shaped.
When peeling an orange, leave on the white stringy part that sticks to the fruit; it harbors pectin, a soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol. Rub unpeeled oranges under running water and dry them with a paper towel before eating, since any bacteria on the rind can transfer to the flesh when slicing, peeling, or juicing. One large orange has 86 calories.
Grapefruit helps defend against everything from cold-season sniffles to heart disease and cancer; pink and red grapefruit also offer about 35 times more of the antioxidant vitamin A than their paler counterparts.
Next time you eat one of these citrus marvels, leave the grapefruit spoon in the drawer. Instead, eat grapefruit segments whole, as you would an orange, and you'll get 50 percent more fiber. (By leaving the membrane behind, you lower the fiber count to just under 2 grams per half fruit.) Half a grapefruit has 53 calories.
This versatile veggie works well in salads, soups, and smoothies. But it's probably best known for its role as a stand-alone snack: Carrot sticks, paired with celery or accompanied by dip, are a crunchy, healthy treat.
Choose firm, bright-orange carrots without splits or cracks. The deeper the orange, the more beta-carotene present. Since beta-carotene is fat-soluble, eat carrots with an olive-oil based dip, hummus, or salad dressing to help your body absorb the nutrients. One cup of chopped carrots has 52 calories.
Raw, fresh cranberries offer more nutritional value than their cooked or dried counterparts, but they can be tart and intimidating. To make them more palatable, mix them with apples, apricots, and oranges.
Cranberries are usually only available in markets from September through December, but they keep well. You can refrigerate fresh cranberries for up to four weeks or freeze them for up to a year.
Ripe, juicy apricots are one of the summer's great pleasures. When shopping, choose plump, golden-orange-hued apricots without soft spots. Apricots ripen more quickly than other stone fruits; refrigerated ripe apricots should last two days. One cup of sliced apricots has 79 calories.
If you can't get fresh, snack on dried apricots. Ounce for ounce, the dried variety has more than three times the fiber of fresh, plus more iron and potassium. In fact, with 755 milligrams of potassium per serving, dried apricots have nearly twice the amount as a banana.
Tomato paste and charred red peppers provide an ancho-spiced dip with layers of flavor in addition to cancer-fighting carotenoids; almonds and walnuts provide the smoky mixture with protein and unsaturated ("good") fat. Makes 6 servings (208 calories each).