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  • Fruit and Produce Selection & The PLU Meaning

    Fruit and Produce Selection & The PLU Meaning

    Laura D. Field of Potpourri of Health – Feb 22th, 2017

    When attempting to eat healthy, with all that we know and have heard about pesticides and GMO’s, it can still be daunting in trying to decipher what is the best choice when selecting our produce. What also complicates matters is when our food budgets are not flexible enough for us to go all organic.

    There is nothing wrong with going all organic, in reality it is the best option, yet not always economical for many household budgets. This does not mean that you will not be able to enhance your health by choosing other healthy produce.

    While shopping, do not ignore the organic section, as I have often found that some items are less costly in comparison and sometimes with the most satisfying flavors.

    When possible stay away from the bagged salad produce, unless you find this is your best option and something you enjoy. I have personally found them to be less appealing for quality and flavor. Kale in a sealed bag tends to be the ends, which the one time I did purchased it, I fed most of it to the compost because there were very few kale leaves. If you “must” buy a salad in a bag, make sure you purchase the bags with the least expansion, as the expansion is the result of the gasses released as the produce begins to break down. Go for the flatter bags, found in the back of the refrigeration with the latest “use by date” and use immediately. I personally do not find that I enjoy the flavor of these bagged salads, despite the various vegetables they might include, yet I can appreciate the ease in making a quick salad after a long day at work or on the road.

    A guideline of the PLU can be quite helpful. For many, one can make a cheat sheet on their phones or on a piece of paper to carry in their wallets, simply as a reference point.

    The Basics of the current PLU codes are:

    1. The 4 digits simply mean that the produce was grown conventionally with the use of pesticides. The four digits represent what type of produce you are purchasing, so that when it scans, it will read that you purchased a banana, an avocado, an apple, etc.
    2. But then there are the codes with 5 digits, which will clearly identify whether the fruit or vegetable was genetically modified or grown organically.
      1. The 4-digit number proceeded by a “8” is the code that identifies it as being genetically modified, being unnaturally tampered.
      2. The 4-digit number proceeded by a “9” is a product grown organically with no modification.

    As much as we would all love to eat organically, it is not always possible. The best option, when selecting produce not found in the organic bins, would be to try and select the “Clean 15” in combination to others in the organic area and be sure to wash ALL your fruit and veggies before cooking and consuming, even the organic.

    The Top “Clean 15”

    1. Avocado’s
    2. Sweet Corn
    3. Pineapple
    4. Cabbage
    5. Frozen Sweet Peas
    6. Onions
    7. Asparagus
    8. Mango’s
    9. Papaya’s
    10. Kiwi
    11. Eggplant
    12. Honeydew Melon
    13. Grapefruit
    14. Cantaloupe
    15. Cauliflower

    As consumers looking for the healthiest of nutrition, I myself can find it hard to purchase organic at times. The key element in our health is shopping smart while only purchasing what you “need” for the duration before the produce will go bad. Depending on family size, everyone’s use of produce will be different. If at the end of the week you are composting any amount of produce, then you are purchasing too much for you needs. Cut back until you find that balance, or simply make two trips.

    Buy in bulk the items you can freeze when they are on sale. I purchase avocado’s and banana’s in bulk when they are on sale. The banana’s and avocado’s I puree for protein shakes and smoothies. Even items from the garden’s can be frozen for later use, but be sure to freeze before they start to go bad (preferably fresh) and use soon upon defrosting for best flavor.

    The produce that is marked down, are great options if you plan on using the food within 24-48 hours (in some cases, maybe more). I tend to look in this area if I am looking to choose something for that day or plan on baking with the item. Banana’s “starting” to turn are perfect for banana bread and sometimes I enjoy them cut into bit sized pieces with added fruit and homemade yogurt. Fresh beans, if they are still firm, are great to steam for dinner. Apples that are still firm, but with a bruise or two, can easily have the bruise portion removed before enjoying.

    When purchasing berries, turn the container over. Strawberries are my most challenging to select. They notoriously have soft and often times in the winter have molding berries, that you can’t always see on the top of the container, but if you turn it over, you will see this more clearly. This is understandable though. Even when I go pick fresh strawberries at the farm, I have to immediately work at preparing them for consumption (refrigerating enough for a few days to enjoy), make jams, or freeze for future use, otherwise they start to get soggy.

    Although expensive in our area, fresh picked fruit and veggies found at the farms, are the most flavorful. I really enjoy finding farm stands when my husband and I take one day trips from home in the summer. Sometimes I find some new vegetables I cannot find at home and often times less costly to the farms we have locally. Many towns also have winter Farmer Markets in addition to their summer markets. This is a great option for fresh food while supporting the local economy.

    Home gardening will be time consuming, and at a cost, but is the most rewarding with great flavors. Hopefully the woodchuck who visited daily last year has found a new home, as I have hopes that our flowers, herbs and veggies will not be wasted on the one bite this pest took from each and every plant it visited.

    Enjoy healthy eating 🙂 while making the choice to be healthy,

    Laura – Blogger and paid Freelance writer

    • Potpourri of Health www.potpourriofhealth.com
    • Freelance writer at www.reflectivetapestryoflife.com
    • Seamstress consultant at www.davinadawnsewing.com


    EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. (2016). Retrieved February 21, 2017, from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php

    What Grocery Stores Don’t Tell You about the Stickers on Fruit and Veggies. (2016, September 07). Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://tiphero.com/produce-stickers/