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Fruits and Veggies

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The first leaves are turning yellow, orange, and red.  The evenings are getting cooler.  The sun is setting earlier. Yes, fall is coming and with it, the joy of autumn produce such as apples, squash, pumpkins, and cabbage. It is a perfect time to stock up and think about incorporating beneficial fruits and veggies into our diets. Fruits and vegetables keep our systems running by providing calories from complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Evidence-based research suggests that fruits and vegetables help protect us from some kinds of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  Sometimes, however, it is a little confusing.  Am I supposed to eat three to five servings or a half-plateful?  What is a serving? How big a plate?   
 
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends three simple steps for deciphering the world of fruits and vegetables:  
1) Learn how many fruits and vegetables are recommended based on your age and gender; 
2) learn what a cup and a half cup look like; and 3) learn how to fit a few more fruits and vegetables into your everyday meals and snacks.
When figuring out the optimal quantity of fruits and vegetables for the day, think more in terms of cups than servings or plates.  For example, according to the CDC, women ages 19-50 should consume two and a half cups of vegetables and one and a half to two cups fruit per day.  Men, ages 19-50, should aim for three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day.  For children, the amounts vary as the child grows.  For example, a 2-3 year girl or boy should eat one cup each of fruit and veggies.  By the time, they reach adolescence (ages 14-18); girls should be ingesting one and a half cups fruit and two and a half cups vegetables while boys should be taking in two cups fruit and three cups veggies.  
 
Guaranteed, most of us do not measure out our food in measuring cups on a daily basis.  To train your eye, however, get out the measuring cups for a week or so.  By doing so, you will have a much better  idea of just how many green beans are in a cup.  Here are a few examples to get you started - one large orange, one large ear of corn, or one large sweet potato equals one cup.  Sixteen grapes, six baby carrots, or four large strawberries equal a half cup. 
The awesome thing about fruits and vegetables is that many of them can be eaten raw, served on the go, or easily integrated into our daily meals. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following nutritious and delicious ways to get fruits and veggies onto your plate:
 
Be Saucy with Fruit 
  • Puree berries, apples, peaches or pears for a thick, sweet sauce on grilled or broiled seafood or poultry, pancakes, French toast or waffles.
Bake with Fruits and Vegetables
  • Use pureed fruit such as applesauce, dried plums (prunes), bananas or peaches in place of about half the fat in recipes for homemade breads, muffins, pancakes and other baked goods. For flavor, texture and nutrients, blend in shredded zucchini, carrots or dried fruits.
"Sandwich" in Fruits and Vegetables
  • Add pizzazz to sandwiches by layering on sliced pineapple, apple, raisins, peppers, cucumbers, sprouts or tomatoes.
Combine with Veggies or Fruit
  • Make a quick stir-fry or combine pasta or rice with just about any vegetables, or add them to soup — great ways to use fresh vegetables before they spoil. Add apricots, pineapple, other fruit or fruit chutney to meat or poultry dishes. 
Experiment
  • Substitute a new-to-you fruit or vegetable in a favorite recipe. Try broccoli rabe (broccoli variety with smaller heads, also called rapini) in stir-fries, fennel in salad, or yautia (a starchy vegetable) in stew.
Take Fruit to Lunch
  • Make a habit of tucking an apple, tangerine, two plums or kiwifruit, grapes, cherries or dried fruits into your briefcase, tote or lunch bag. Fruit is a great traveling snack.
Stuff an Omelet with Veggies
  • For a hearty meal, fill it with crisp, tasty vegetables such as broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, spinach or onions.
Toss a Vegetable Salad
  • Add colorful vegetables, legumes and fruits (such as berries, kiwifruit or mandarin oranges). Even if you prefer iceberg lettuce, which delivers less nutrients than other greens, pair it with other veggies — sliced beets, shredded red cabbage, spinach leaves, baby carrots.
 
For more fruit, vegetable and other nutritional information, log onto:  www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org or www.eatright.org.  Both sites have in-depth guidelines based on your age and gender as well as recipes and meal planning ideas.  If you have specific questions, you can also call Noyes Health at (585) 335-6001 and ask for a dietician.  Until next time, enjoy your veggies and be well!
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.  
 
 

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