How to Eat More Veggies and Save Time in the Kitchen?

Pre-chopping will increase the amount of fresh veggies eaten in your house and save precious prep time on busy nights.

Worried that pre-chopping may lead to nutrient loss?  I’ll show you some research on that later, but first consider this…

Which are you more likely eat

I know my family gets more nutrients when I pre-chop and store my veggies than if I simply store whole veggies.  Why?  Because they actually eat them!  And, I tend to include more veggies in our meals when they’re prepped and ready to go.  

There’s just one problem with this technique – my family eats my pre-chopped veggies before I have a chance to cook with them!  I know right!!!  As a result, I have to buy and pre-chop more veggies.  What a dilemma!  

To solve this little issue, I prepare two types of pre-chopped veggies.  One container is clearly labelled:

do not eat

The other is obviously meant to be eaten:

veggie platter

The chopped veggies above were devoured by my 2 kids aged 10 and 12 in two days.  Am I concerned that these veggies lost some of their Vitamin C by being pre-chopped?  Not so much!  Would my kids have eaten these veggies if they were stored properly in the fridge – Nope, there’s no way they would have actually stopped to peel a carrot or chop cucumbers.  Certainly, not unless I made them.  And making them help me once a week is much easier than making them do it 5 times a week or whenever they’re looking for something to snack on.

As for time savings, let’s do a little math.

Chopping & Prepping Each Meal Time
5 minutes to chop
5 minutes to prep, clean up and store in fridge
10 minutes/ meal

10 x 5 meals = 50 minutes of veggie time

Chopping & Prepping Once a Week
20 minutes to chop (economies of scale, chopping will be faster)
10 minutes to prep, clean up and store in fridge
30 minutes/week

Even if my estimates are a little off – pre-chopping saves time.

Does this or could this work in your family?

How to Store Pre-Chopped Veggies

I store pre-chopped veggies in air tight plastic storage containers for 4-5 days.  After that, they start to look a little unpalatable and I do begin thinking about their nutrient loss.

Since I often have a lot of carrots, I usually store them in a separate container.  I do add some water to my cut carrots to keep them crunchy and appealing – another thing that will lead them to lose water soluble vitamin C.  I’m willing to trade the loss of water soluble nutrients for crunchy carrots because I know we get sufficient quantities by eating a colorful, variety of fresh and cooked fruits and veggies.

If Vitamin C intake is an issue for you or your family – pre-chopping and storing veggies may not be the best technique for you.

The Science of Nutrient Loss of Cut and Stored Fruits and Veggies

Here’s some of the science I came across re the loss of nutrients in cut and stored fruits and veggies.  As one of the most sensitive nutrients to water, heat, light and oxygen – Vitamin C is often measured and used as a good index of nutrient degradation.  Storing and cutting veggies is most likely to impact the loss of water soluble nutrients (Vitamin C, B Vitamins and some phytochemicals).  Of less concern are fat soluble nutrients (Vitamins A,D,E,K, carotenoids (eg. lycopene) which are sensitive to heat, light, oxygen and pH levels.

The good news is that there are plenty of good sources of Vitamin C and B.  Most of us eating a well balanced, varied diet will get sufficient amounts of both.

  • In Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits and Vegetables, some examples of Vitamin C loss in veggies refrigerated (4°C) for 7 days is provided (15% loss of Vit C in green peas, 77% in green beans, 0% in broccoli.  The research

    shows that by the time a fruit or vegetable is consumed, fresh, frozen, and canned versions may be nutritionally similar, depending on the postharvest handling and processing treatments.  Leading the author to recommend

    “Fruits and vegetables should be consumed soon after harvest, or postharvest handling conditions must be controlled such that nutrient degradation does not occur. A good diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or otherwise preserved.”  Diane Barrett, Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits and Vegetables, University of California

  • A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, published in 2006 researchers showed that fresh-cut fruit such as mangoes, pineapples, kiwifruits, strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe do not lose most of their nutrients—including antioxidants vitamin C, carotenoids, and phenols—when stored in clear plastic clamshell containers and refrigerated for a few days. They were compared to the same fruits, left whole, stored for the same duration but sliced or diced on the day of sampling. “In general, fresh-cut fruits visually spoil before any significant nutrient loss occurs,” wrote the researchers.
  • The World’s Healthiest Foods (a site I’m not very familiar with) website also has some information on How Cutting, Slicing and Chopping Effects Fresh Veggies.

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