In Texas, three out of four deaths are attributed to a chronic disease. However, studies show an intake of at least two and half cups of vegetables and fruits per day as part of a healthy eating pattern can reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. We know a healthy eating pattern including fruits and vegetables can help to lower risks of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Lifestyles are hectic; however, increasing fruit and vegetables can be easy. Here are a few tips for making fruits and vegetables the easy choice:
Choose to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. The rest of your plate should be one-quarter grains and one-quarter protein foods with low-fat dairy on the side. MyPlate is a guide to making a healthy meal, yet not every meal will look like MyPlate. For example, a sandwich may not fit in each portion of the plate; however, making a sandwich with whole grain bread, lean protein, a slice of low-fat cheese, and adding lots of vegetables with a side of fruit makes a healthy plate (visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information).
Choose a variety of colors. The colors in fruit and vegetables are not just to make them look pretty, although plates with more color tend to look more appetizing. Fruit and vegetable colors are complex and each color contains vitamins and minerals that can assist in reducing the risk of chronic disease. Eat from the rainbow and vary the colors on your plate.
Choose whole fruits and vegetables over juice. Children and adults eat most of their fruits and vegetables in the form of fruit juice, which can contain added sugars and make it higher in calories. Choosing whole fruits and vegetables provides fiber, vitamins, minerals, and contains less added sugar.
Choose to prep your snacks ahead of time. Busy schedules can sometimes mean reaching for unhealthy snacks. During the weekend, package small snack bags of bell peppers, carrots, strawberries, or your favorite fruit or vegetable for the week. Place them in a spot you can see in the refrigerator. This may help to limit choosing less healthful and tempting snacks!
Choose to make fruits and vegetables exciting. Involve your kids! Have them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try at the grocery store or see how many different colors they can include on their plate. Create a fruit and veggie contest and have them create fun shapes and pictures out of cut up fruits and vegetables. Making fruits and vegetables part of a child’s healthy eating pattern establishes positive behaviors early. Children learn from watching you.
Choose to flavor your water. Flavored drinks are in every grocery store. However, they can be full of added calories. You can make your own flavored water by freezing diced fruits or vegetables and adding them to your water. When you finish your water have the fruit or vegetable as a snack! It can be as easy as freezing slices of cucumber or whole raspberries and adding them to your water!
Choose fruit and vegetables to start the day. Fruits can be an easy choice at breakfast food. However, mix in some vegetables too. Try adding spinach to your eggs, avocado to your toast, or tomatoes to a breakfast sandwich.
Choose to grow your own. It doesn’t take much work or space to create a vegetable garden of your own. Have a picky eater? Children love to try new foods that they have seen growing in their garden. A few potted tomato plants placed on a patio and watered frequently can be a fun and inexpensive way to increase your consumption of vegetables.
Learn to preserve the things you grow by attending the Preserving the Harvest food preservation workshop on Saturday, June 11, from 2–4 p.m. at Emily Fowler Central Library, 502 Oakland St, Denton. I will be discussing the proper techniques for pressure and water bath canning, freezing and dehydrating foods. Bring your pressure canners to have them checked for accuracy. Workshop and canner testing will be provided at no cost.