Ursula Ridens, registered dietitian nutritionist, from Sharp HealthCare's Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Program, explains why we should never skimp on fruits and vegetables in our daily meals.
I'm sure it's not news to you that fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. So why is it that far too many Americans aren't getting the recommended 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day? Too expensive you say? Think again.
According to the USDA's September 2011 report, the average American family of four spent $185 per week on food, in 2009, eating a less-than-healthy diet (only 59% and 42% of the recommended servings of vegetables and fruits, respectively). The USDA established a low-cost healthy food plan that cost less ($175 per week for family of four in 2010) AND met the recommendations for fruit and vegetable servings — and also included more whole grains, lower fat/skim milk, and less fats, oils and sweets.
Here's why you can afford to eat more fruits and veggies:
You Crowd Out Giant Portions of Starches and Proteins
Filling at least half your plate with fruits and veggies is a great way to avoid overeating starches and proteins. Overindulging on refined grains and large portions of meats and poultry seems to be the American way of eating. Eating meals with excessive carbohydrate and saturated fat from animal proteins may increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes and weight concerns. To top it off, smaller portions of animal protein will save money in your pocket!
Disease Prevention and Health
Reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Who wouldn't want to get a piece of this benefit?
- The potassium in fruits and veggies, like banana, citrus, tomatoes and potato is great for lowering and preventing high blood pressure.
- Dietary fiber helps promote good digestion, lowers cancer risk, stabilizes blood sugar, and reduces cholesterol. Try great fiber sources like beans, lentils, apples and berries.
- Vitamin-A-rich foods like sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots and cantaloupe help to keep your eyes and skin healthy.
It's Easy to Eat Them!
Choose fruits and veggies that take very little time to prepare. It's easy to grab cherry tomatoes, mini sweet bell peppers, mini cucumbers and snap peas. Just rinse under running water and eat — great for an on-the-go snack or mealtime side. Choose easy-to-rinse-and-eat fruits like bite-size grapes and berries. If you don't have time to cut your fruit (and don't mind spending a little extra at the checkout stand) look for precut packs of apples or already-cubed fruit salad. You'll save in the long run by improving your health!
They Taste Magnificent . . . Really!
I know some of you would challenge me on this. If you've never been one to gravitate toward fruits and veggies, try dressing them up a bit to entice your taste buds. Sprinkle cinnamon and sliced almonds on a peeled banana. Drizzle a bit of honey on apple slices. Use Greek yogurt as a dip for apples or cucumbers. Enhance the taste of veggies by incorporating them into flavorful dishes like grated carrot in spaghetti sauce or chopped zucchini in lasagna.
Their health value far exceeds the cost to purchase them. Remember, fruits and vegetables are only good for you if you eat them! So . . . get READY, get SET, GO:
- Visit your local farmers market.
- Start a small home garden.
- Keep a beautifully stocked bowl of fruit on your kitchen table or counter.
And . . . ENJOY!
For More Information
The Sharp Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Program provides one-on-one nutrition counseling with registered dietitians at four convenient locations throughout San Diego County. To get your questions answered and learn more about our offerings in heart health, weight management, kidney disease, eating disorders, digestive health and more, please contact us at (619) 740-4632, or visit Sharp's Nutrition Education and Counseling Program.