May I Please Have More Fruits and Veggies?
Tip # 11: Fill Half Your Plate with Fruits and Vegetables
You probably hear again and again the push for people to eat more fruits and vegetables. Why are fruits and vegetables so important to us? Well, let’s see... Fruits and vegetables are not only loaded with a variety of vitamins and minerals but are also a great source of fiber. To add to the benefit list, they are naturally low in calories, fat and sodium. Some of the main nutrients we get from fruits and vegetables include vitamin A, C and E, fiber, folate and potassium. Here are some of the reasons why these are important to our bodies.
Vitamin A is essential in cell reproduction. In addition, it supports our bodies’ immunity, promotes bone growth and tooth development. Furthermore, Vitamin A aids with vision and it is required for the formation of certain hormones. It also allows us to maintain our skin, hair and mucous membranes healthy.
Vitamin C is not only an excellent antiviral agent but it also has a significant role as an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect body tissues from the damage of oxidation. They work to protect the cells of your body against the effects of free radicals (by-products of our bodies’ metabolism which can cause cell damage possibly contributing to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer).
Vitamin E much like vitamin C, is also an important antioxidant. In addition, it is critical in the formation of red blood cells and has an ability to soothe and heal broken skin tissue.
Fiber intake in adequate amounts is most likely known for the ability to prevent or relieve constipation but is also linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (by reducing blood cholesterol levels), type 2 diabetes and obesity (by making you feel fuller with fewer calories).
Folate helps our bodies form new red blood cells. It also aids in the production of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) which makes it essential for protein metabolism and growth. For women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, an adequate consumption of folate from foods (plus additional synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements) reduces the risk of neural tube defects during fetal development.
Potassium, when consumed in adequate amounts has been found to have effects on blood pressure reduction which also affects the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease in a positive way. In addition, it may also decrease the risk of developing kidney stones and helps to reduce bone loss.
The goal is to aim for at least 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of fruit/day and 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables daily. Of course you can measure out your servings and make sure you get what the recommendations are but the truth is that most of the time there is a simpler way to ensure you are getting enough. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables! When planning, ordering or preparing your meal make sure that you include plenty of fruits and vegetables to balance the intake of nutrients.
Now, you don’t have to necessarily have those fruits and vegetables on one side of your plate. The great thing about these foods is that they can fit as part of your meal in many ways! Here are some examples:
-Add a variety of fruits (pineapple, apples, cranberries) and vegetables (mushrooms, spinach, peppers) to top your pizza.
-Get creative with those smoothies. Start with a low-fat Greek yogurt or skim milk base and add your favorite fruits. Do not be afraid to mix flavors and include some vegetables.
-Snack on raw veggies dipped in hummus, salsa or guacamole. For fruits dip in yogurt or low-fat cream cheese.
-Top your morning cereal, waffles or yogurt with berries, bananas or your favorite melon.
-Make ready-to-go bags or containers of fruits and vegetables. When you have foods ready to eat you are more likely to choose them when snack time arrives.
-Salads are not only an opportunity to increase your vegetable intake. Fruits add a variety of flavors and textures too. Think oranges, berries, apples and pears.
-Having a sandwich or wrap with lunch? Fill it with those veggies in addition to cheese and your favorite lean meat.
For more great ideas on how to include fruits and vegetables in your diet check these great recipes from Fruits and Veggies More Matters.
March is National Nutrition Month! We have committed to do 14 blog posts that tackle an important topic in food and nutrition. To see all the posts we have done including some from previous years, click on “National Nutrition Month” under blog category.
Filed Under: National Nutrition Month, Family Feeding, Family Nutrition, MyPlate,