Most people know that eating fruits and vegetables is important for good health, but most of us still aren’t getting enough. This September, let's all make an effort to include more of these nutritional powerhouses into our diets during "Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month."
Eating a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits can help you:
• Lower your risk for heart disease and some types of cancer
• Maintain or reach a healthy weight
• Keep your body strong and active
• Keep you feeling full with fiber
• Add color and important phytochemicals to your meal
Some ideas to help you and your family fit more fruits and vegetables into your day:
• Keep a bowl of fruit handy where the whole family can see it. Research from Cornell’s Food and Brand lab found that the food on your counter can predict your weight. Those with cereal and soft drinks sitting out weighed 20 and 24 to 26-lbs more, respectively than those who didn’t. Those with only a bowl of fruit sitting out weighed 13-lbs less. It boils down to the “See-Food Diet”- you eat what you see! Cut up fruits and veggies ahead of time so they’re ready for quick, healthy snacks.
• Challenge your family to try a new vegetable or fruit every week. Another study from Cornell found that “food neophiles," individuals that enjoy eating new and different foods, had lower BMIs and were more likely to be concerned about the healthfulness of food than non-adventurous eaters. Looking for something new? Try sprouts, greens of all kinds like carrot tops & seaweed snacks and even hybrid fruits & veggies like pineberries (pineapple-flavored strawberries), ugli fruit (a cross between a grapefruit, orange and tangerine), and kalettes (Brussels sprouts cross-bred with kale).
• Focus on what’s in season to get the best tasting produce. Check out your local food hub and farmers market for local, seasonal fare. Some of my favorites in September include cabbage for homemade sauerkraut, Swiss chard for a savory stir-fry and peaches for a sweet treat. You can also find pumpkins, apples, tomatoes and below-ground favorites like carrots, potatoes and turnips.
• Wanting to preserve your garden bounty for winter? There are so many ways to preserve your favorite fruits, vegetables and herbs. You can find a variety of tested recipes for your canning, freezing, drying and pickling needs at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.
Remember, eating more fruits and veggies can be fun – and it’s worth it.