The Power of Produce

June 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Health and Fitness

By Brooke Parker 

There are as many excuses for not eating your fruits and vegetables as there are varieties to choose from.  “They are too expensive.” “I don’t have the time.” “I don’t like the way they taste.” “They go bad too fast.” “My kids won’t eat them.” I could go on and on.  My job is to provide tools and motivation to overcome these perceived obstacles.  I hope to make eating your fruits and vegetables easy, fun, and an extra boost for your health.

The place to start is at the grocery store.  My motto for produce goes like this:  “If you don’t buy them, you won’t eat them.”  I’ve found this to be consistently true.  Eating out and snacking does not naturally facilitate consuming many fruits or vegetables.  You have to plan a little bit and make time for grocery shopping and some preparation.  Buying produce can be really fun.  Try letting each of your family members pick out a different variety or color, or even a different shape.  Attend a farmers market for fresh seasonal varieties.  Set up a “produce cut-up time” to allow for easy access later on.

The goal-setting format discussed in my previous article will be very beneficial.  Start off slowly and with very reasonable expectations.  The weeks you succeed, plan on increasing your intake for the next week by one serving.  NEVER expect perfection!  Allow for off-days as well as daily ranges.  Remember that patience and flexibility can lead to long-term habits.  I’ve listed below some information that may be just the motivating factor you need.

Benefits of eating fruits and vegetables:
 – Low in calories and fat, which aids in weight management
 – High volume + low calorie = more chewing and swallowing (Yeah!)
 – High in vitamins, minerals and fiber
 – Can keep you full longer
 – Protects against cancer
 – Can reduce hypertension–see the DASH Diet (i)
 – Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease

How Much Do I Need?
 – Recommended amounts are individually based on gender, age, and activity.
 – Check out www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov.
 – New simplified cup-serving recommendations: If keeping track of cup amounts is too difficult count each time you eat a fruit or vegetable during the day as 1 serving. This enables you to set goals and enhances variety.

Easy Tips:
 – Have fruits and vegetables visible and easily accessible at home.
 – Use fruit as an on-the-go snack (apple, banana, pear, orange, etc.).
 – Snack on carrots, pepper sticks, celery, broccoli, cucumber, etc.
 – Use ready-made salads.
 – Load up pizza with tons of veggies.
 – Top waffles, pancakes, etc., with berries.
 – Make smoothies using your favorite fruits.
 – Serve frozen stir-fry packages to make a great dinner.
 – Stock your pantry with your favorite canned and dried varieties.

Helpful Websites:
 – www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov
 – www.dole5aday.com (great for kids)
 – www.fruitandveggieguru.com

i. www.dashdiet.org

Brooke Parker is a registered dietitian currently working for Utah State University.  Her specialty is eating disorders. She is in the process of writing a book on guilt-free eating and positive body image. Brooke is a wife and mother of three. © 2009

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