Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Eat fruits and vegetables this summer to improve your health

Warm weather is officially here…A perfect time to fine tune your fruit and vegetable eating habits!  Due to the warm weather, you will see an abundance of fresh produce items for sale at your local grocery store and farmers markets.  The time has never been easier to incorporate healthful, flavorful plant foods into your diet.

For most adults, 3 to 4 servings of fruits and 4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day meets the dietary guidelines for what is considered healthy.  Depending on your personal nutrient needs, you may even need more.  Generally, a serving of fruit is ½ cup or a small piece.  A serving of vegetables is usually ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw.

As a bonus to their healthful nature, fruits and vegetables are also inexpensive – especially compared to processed foods.  Even $1 for a large organic apple is cheap, compared to how much you may spend on bottled water, coffee drinks or granola bars.  If you choose conventional versions of produce, you may save more money.  Remember, the “dirty dozen” (12 produce items most highly contaminated with pesticide residues) include: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.  For a downloadable wallet guide of the dirty dozen and 12 least contaminated, visit: http://www.foodnews.org.  If you can buy any of the “dirty dozen” in organic versions, I would recommend it.  If not, it is still more healthful to eat the conventional versions than none at all!  Remember that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) registers the use of pesticides that do not cause an “unreasonable risk to health or the environment”.  If residues are known to exist on produce items, the EPA sets a safety limit and then the FDA is in charge of monitoring in most cases.  For more information, visit: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/pes01usr.html

So, how can you easily incorporate fruits and vegetables, in an economic and healthful way?  Here are some tips:

• Buy berries now!  They are in season and the prices are coming down!  Use on cereal, in yogurt, on ice cream, in smoothies and atop salads.
• Eat a side salad every night before dinner to get in at least 2 of your daily vegetable servings. 
• Puree and/or cooked vegetables to add to bread or muffin batters (i.e. zucchini or carrot bread), ground beef (i.e. spinach & carrots in lasagna, burgers or meatballs) and soups (i.e. thicken with pureed vegetables in place of cream).
• Make homemade granola or trail mix with dried fruit.
• For breakfast, try fresh melon, cottage cheese and a slice of whole wheat toast with honey or omega-3-enriched margarine.
• For dessert, have cherries (fresh or frozen).  Just don’t pick the maraschino cherries which are artificially colored and often contain high amounts of added sugars.
• Cook more vegetarian meals.  Try tofu instead of cheese. 
• Try kale and other greens.  The farmers markets have a great selection now. Ask farmers for ideas.
• Cut up cucumbers and bell peppers for munching on when you get home from work or school.  Serve with homemade or store-bought hummus.
• Buy the fruits and vegetables that are on sale each week and plan your menus accordingly.  Know which ones you want to have at home all the time and keep them on your regular shopping list (i.e. bananas, lettuce and carrots).
• Don’t forget about potatoes and sweet potatoes for your evening starch choice, instead of the usual bread, rice or pasta.

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