Saturday, October 3, 2009

Easy Ways to Get "5 A Day" Servings of Fruits and Veggies

This week a CDC study revealed that 14% of adult Americans on average get the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Worse yet, less than 10% of American teens are eating the recommended servings daily. But the old slogan "5 a Day" may not be enough. The new US food guidelines are 7-13 cups of fresh produce per day.

It's not a surprise that teenagers are worse off nutritionally than adults because based on the result - they have a terrible example!

So why are eating fruits and vegetables important? Fresh fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to maintain a optimum health. A balanced diet with an emphasis on fresh produce is beneficial to:

  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Protect against diseases - type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease
  • Maintain stable metabolic functions

I heard about these findings when I was driving to work on the NPR Morning Edition broadcast. Then, I looked around and it hit me as I drove passed the fast food restaurants along the street. It's really not a surprise when Americans are buying fast food, precooked frozen food, convenience food in bags or boxes, and well...not cooking from fresh ingredients! I have to admit cooking has been a challenge for me in the last two months because I live in a tiny rental apartment with a terrible kitchen. We made the move to Indianapolis from Chicago, leaving behind our gorgeous granite counters, gas stove, and spacious workspace kitchen! Our condo is on the market and we're waiting patiently to make the move to our new home in Indy. Being focused on my health, I have found ways to eat fresh produce both raw and cooked.

Tips for getting fruits and veggies in your diet...

  1. Sign up for a produce delivery service or stock up at the local Farmer's Market. Eating seasonal local produce is not only better for the environment, but it's budget-friendly! You can try out new varieties instead of the same old tired choices you make if you go to the grocery store. If you have the produce delivered to your doorstep, there are no excuses for not getting to the store if you're busy. I order from a local company in Indy to get organic, seasonal local produce. I receive a shipment every week filled with fruit and veggies. Since it's already here, I have no excuse to wash, cut, cook, or pack up fresh in my lunches for snacks.
  2. Look on your plate - your meal is incomplete without fruits and vegetables. Making a sandwich? Add lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, or roasted red pepper inside. Add a fruit and veggie as a side dish. Sometimes I saute veggies if I get tired of steamed vegetables for dinner. You can try a mix of onions, peppers, and zucchini for a quick side dish sauteed with minced garlic and olive oil.
  3. Stock up on frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen fruits and veggies are picked at peak season with minimal processing. They are very nutritious and plain versions (not mixed with suaces) are always budget friendly. I always stock broccoli, chopped spinach, and frozen peas on-hand in the freezer for quick side dishes. Check out my quick pesto pasta that I used with frozen peas and trick for my pasta with frozen spinach - no need for defrosting!
  4. A few more tips here on WebMD.

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