You might not have realized there is whole month dedicated to challenging and encouraging Americans to add more fruits and vegetables to their daily diet to promote health. The Fruits & Veggies—More Matters health initiative was started by the nonprofit Produce for Better Health Foundation in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
According to data published by the CDC, U.S. adults are falling short of eating enough daily fruits and vegetable servings. The average American adult eats fruit 1.1 times per day and vegetables 1.6 times per day. This is far less than the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) recommended five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables. These statistics provide a great challenge for dietitians to continue to educate and encourage others to consume more produce daily. Having fruits and vegetables readily available is the first step to increasing daily consumption.
Stocking the Pantry
You don’t have buy fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy the nutritional benefits. Keeping a well-stocked pantry that includes canned, dried and frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as a few 100 percent juice choices, will set you up for success. Always having fruits and vegetables stocked at home will make it easier to add them to dishes or grab quick snacks throughout the day. It is hard to find a satisfying snack with less prep time than an apple or a handful of grapes. Just be mindful to counsel on hidden ingredients and portion sizes — for example:
- Dried fruit are great convenient snacks packed with vitamins and minerals, but they are also calorie-dense so watch the serving size.
- Canned fruit is great for packed lunches — just make sure it is packed in natural juices instead of syrup to limit added sugar.
- Canned and frozen vegetables are great for adding to dishes. Be sure to drain and rinse canned vegetables to lower the sodium content by as much as 90 percent.
Eating the Rainbow (and The Clouds)
Including a colorful array of produce in meals jazzes up the dishes and boosts the nutritional value. Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber to help promote a healthy gut and satiety after a meal. Don’t forget the white vegetables — think onions, leeks and cauliflower. Although they aren’t a color in the rainbow, they are packed with nutrients and phytochemicals.
- Green produce is rich in vitamins A, C and K, calcium and iron.
- Red, orange and yellow produce is rich in vitamin C and carotenoids.
- Blue- and purple-hued produce is rich in vitamin K, vitamin C and polyphenols.
- White produce is rich in manganese, vitamin B6, folate and phytonutrients.
Above all else, be bold. Try a new fruit or vegetable at the store or farmers' market. Explore a new recipe that features vegetables. Take inventory of your pantry and add more produce to your shopping list. Even more adventuresome, start your own vegetable garden. As we have seen in school and urban gardens, people are more willing to try new vegetables if they grow them themselves. Try to eat the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and veggies on a daily basis for 30 days, and see if you are eating healthier.