By: Vanessa Pruett, Cooking Light Test Kitchen Director

In a previous career, I worked for several different supermarkets as a bakery/deli manager. I was always familiar with the produce department since we were usually right next to them in the store. During the month of January I spent more time in the produce section and was surprised at how much they have changed. There is more variety than ever before. Fruits and vegetables that were once considered seasonal are available almost year round. And they make it so easy for us that no one should use “not having time to cook” as an excuse.

Who knew there were a dozen ways to purchase carrots? The 1 pound bag is barely visible with carrot sticks, shreds, crinkle cut, diagonally sliced, chopped, baby carrots, snack-size carrots with ranch dip, etc. etc. And that is just the carrots! Your produce department manager knows we lead busy lives.

If prechopped, prepackaged produce helps you get in more fruits and vegetables, consider the extra cost worth your time and health.

Readers, do any of you rely on "convenience" items to add to your number of servings of fruits and vegetables? Tell us about it!