Put More Fresh Produce on Your Family’s Plates

By Mareya Ibrahim
Mareya Ibrahim
Mareya Ibrahim
January 30, 2014 Updated: March 23, 2014

You know the bubbly friend you have, the one that everyone wants to hang out with: She’s perfectly shaped, a little on the spicy side but definitely the most colorful one of the bunch. She’s radishing!

Veggie humor aside, it’s time to put fresh produce in your family’s limelight (if it’s not there already). 

Bite per bite, many fruit and vegetables provide the most nutrient-dense power per calorie and more phytonutrients than we could even begin to understand. We need to teach our children to enjoy them so they have a natural first line of defense against the growing rate of childhood obesity.

But part of the teaching process will be to make produce a natural part of our children’s everyday lives. Otherwise, vegetables could be the subject of a relentless shove around the plate, offered to the dog under the table or used as a basketball with the trash can as a hoop. Given the proper place they deserve, everyone reaps a wealth of health benefits and something real to chew on.

Top-quality fresh vegetables often get a lot of attention from top chefs because they understand the impact of a perfectly cultivated heirloom tomato or an organically grown strawberry on their plates. 

An internationally acclaimed chef and James Beard Award-winner, Michael Mina elevates the importance of fresh produce by carefully sourcing products at each of his 17 concept restaurants. 

“Better product is directly correlated with better flavor. When food is in season, flavors are balanced naturally,” Mina said.

Mina also creates outdoor gardens as well as indoor living gardens. 

Here are four tips for getting produce onto your plates:

1. Shop With the Seasons 

There’s an Arabic saying that translates to “in the season of the apricot,” meaning there’s a slim chance to none because the window for getting the darling little fruit is only four weeks. Fruit and veggies at the peak of freshness are unbeatable, giving them a fair chance to tickle everyone’s taste buds.

2. Have a Tasting Party 

The plethora of fresh produce we have access to is a royal gift. There are literally thousands of different types of jewels to pick from, but you may only purchase a handful regularly. 

Experiment with new ones and hold a tasting party with a bevy of bites on each plate, and rate each one. Get the kids involved in the action, weighing in on their favorites. 

3. Make It Ready to Eat 

Many a perishable suffers an untimely death, smothered by a plastic bag in the back of the fridge. Bring produce home and immediately wash, cut, and place in storage containers for easy access. Washing produce helps to remove harmful residue and prolongs shelf life.

4. Never Run Out 

You may have the best of intentions getting to the store, but the cupboard is bare and you’ve run out of juice. 

To help prevent home and office sabotage, source a local produce delivery service that provides you with different fruits and veggies to play with. Play with color and textures and get in the habit of adding fresh produce to every plate. Your dishes will start to look naked without them.

Chef Mareya’s Carrot and Avocado Soup With Fruit Relish 

• 2 teaspoons grape seed oil
• 1/2 red onion, chopped finely
• 2–3 large carrots, steamed and chopped 
• 1 small Hass avocado, halved and seed removed
• 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
• 1 3/4 cup vegetable broth
• 14 ounces nonfat coconut milk
• Sea salt to taste

Fruit Relish 

• 1/2 cup seeded pomegranate
• 1/2 cup grated carrot
• 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
• Zest and juice of one lime

In a medium saucepan, sauté onion until translucent. Set aside. Wash carrots and steam or boil until fork tender, about 8 minutes. 

In a blender, combine onion, carrots, avocado, ginger, broth, and coconut milk and process until smooth and creamy. Heat for about 5 minutes or if using a strong blender, process until hot.

In a separate bowl, combine relish ingredients. Ladle soup into a bowl and top with a teaspoon of fruit relish. Enjoy warm or at room temp.


Mareya Ibrahim is The Fit Foodie, an award-winning chef on Everyday Health’s Emmy-nominated show “Recipe Rehab,” and author and founder of EatCleaner.com. Her book “The Clean Eating Handbook,” a guide on how to eat cleaner and get leaner, was released in May 2013.