Use Your Senses to Pick Healthy Fruits and Vegetables


Most people have five primary senses—sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. But, do you think about how to use each of these senses to choose fruits and vegetables and improve your nutrition?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Rebecca Jilek, MPH, RD, LD, CDE, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at the St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center, says the amount of vegetables you eat isn’t the only thing you should take into consideration. She recommends using all of your senses to get the most nutritional value out of fruits and vegetables.

  • Sight – choosing fruits and vegetables that are different colors will add a variety of nutrients to your diet. Also, choose rich, deep colors when available—dark green lettuce will provide more nutritional value than iceberg lettuce. Red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins that help lower your risk for many diseases, including cancer. In addition, strawberries should be red to the stem and not be white; watermelon should only have one yellow spot where it was resting on the ground; and pineapple should be yellow to the stem.
  • Smell – make sure what you are choosing passes the sniff test. Don’t just look at the fruit when you buy it, smell it. Do you smell the freshness of the fruit or do you smell wilting greens? Avoid anything that smells moldy, old or sour.
  • Touch – fresh fruits and vegetables are typically firm. Snap the green beans to make sure they are still fresh. Melons should be heavy for their size to offer the most flavor and juice.
  • Hearing – not all fruits and vegetables make noises that give hints of freshness, but some do. If your pepper rattles, it may mean the seeds are loose and it isn’t as fresh as it could be.
  • Taste – try a different fruit or vegetable every two weeks to find out what tastes you like. The fresher the fruit or vegetable, the more flavorful it will be. Make sure you prepare them several ways—raw vegetables taste very different from roasted vegetables. If you don’t like the taste try them in an omelet, salad, soup or meatloaf. The goal is to find what you like and add five to nine servings a day.

“By using your five senses you begin to understand what you like about the fruit or vegetable and it may be easier to add more of it to your diet,” says Rebecca.

Rebecca also recommends trying to eat them in a different way, “Use cauliflower as rice, use zucchini as noodles. By substituting them in recipes you are more likely to eat your recommended daily intake.”

The St. Elizabeth Weight Management Center offers group classes as part of our Weight Management program. If you are interested in learning more about the programs offered at the Weight Management Center at St. Elizabeth, please call (859) 212-GOAL or visit us online.