Ten tips to get more vegetables
1. Cook fresh or frozen vegetables in the microwave for a quick and easy dish to add to any meal. Try steaming green beans, carrots, or broccoli in a bowl with a small amount of water in the microwave.
2. Cut up a batch of bell peppers, carrots or broccoli. Pre-package them to use when time is limited. You can enjoy them on a salad, with hummus or in a veggie wrap.
3. Brighten your plate with vegetables that are red, orange or dark green. They are full of vitamins and minerals. Try acorn squash, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes or collard greens. They taste great and are good for you.
4. Frozen vegetables are quick, easy to use and just as nutritious as fresh veggies. Try adding frozen corn, peas, green beans, spinach or sugar snap peas to some of your favorite recipes or eat them as a side dish.
5. Canned vegetables are a great addition to any meal, so keep on hand canned tomatoes, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, mushrooms and beets. Select those labeled as “reduced sodium,” “low sodium” or “no salt added.”
6. Brighten your salad by using colorful vegetables and legumes such as black beans, sliced red bell peppers, shredded radishes, chopped red cabbage or watercress. Your salad will look pretty and taste delicious.
7. Sip some vegetable soup. Try tomato, butternut squash or garden vegetable varieties. Look for reduced- or low-sodium soups.
8. If you’re eating dinner away from home, no need to worry. When ordering, ask for an extra side of vegetables or a side salad instead of the typical fried side dish.
9. Buy vegetables that are in season for maximum flavor at a lower cost. Check your local supermarket for the best-in-season buys or visit a farmer’s market.
10. Try something new — you never know what you may like. Choose a new vegetable and add it to your recipe or check the Internet for ways to cook it.
Many people make the mistake of believing that health can be found in the form of a pill. There are seemingly limitless selections of vitamin and mineral supplements available on store shelves these days. A trip to the drug store vitamin aisle can leave shoppers longing for assistance with selecting a simple painkiller. With such a wide selection, it is hard to know which supplements are best and which leave something to be desired.
The answer might surprise some supplement consumers: All the vitamins and minerals our bodies need should come from the food that we eat, not through supplements, according to Raleighetta Varnedoe, Liberty Regional Medical Center’s consultant dietician and Winn Army Community Hospital’s assistant chief of nutrition care.
“Supplements are exactly that — they supplement the body with vitamins that our bodies lack due to poor nutrition. If we eat the proper amount of fruits and vegetables each day, there is no need for vitamin supplements,” she said. “Fruits and vegetables are our natural ‘health insurance’ against illness and disease.”
She added that the body only can absorb the vitamins it needs in a given day. If a vitamin is not needed or is taken in excess, the body will not use it, and will flush it out as waste.
Some supplements may deliver the same nutrients as food, but they don’t provide the same antioxidant benefits. A diet high in antioxidants helps rid the body of free radicals and protects against germs and disease, Varnedoe said.
“Many people are not choosing fruits and vegetables as part of their normal diet. This can be due to many factors — their upbringing, they think they don’t like vegetables, they don’t know how to cook them, they are afraid of spoilage or they just don’t have the time to cook,” she said.
The recommended daily intake is five fruits and vegetables each day, preferably a three-vegetables-to-two-fruits ratio. A good rule of thumb is that half of a lunch or dinner should consist of produce, Varnedoe said. It’s important that people understand what constitutes a serving, she added. Generally, a half-cup cooked or one cup raw fruits and vegetables is one serving.
Keeping a supply of produce on hand can be a challenge. To prevent spoilage, only buy enough fresh produce to last a few days and then restock.
“Frozen and canned vegetables are a great option since they keep a long time and are easy to prepare,” Varnedoe said.
Cooking and preparation are important as well. Eating produce raw always is best.
“Overcooking vegetables will cook the vitamins and nutrients right out,” Varnedoe said. Never boil vegetables in water; steaming is the best cooking option.
You also can drink your fruits and veggies. For those who use a home juicer, a serving size is approximately 6-8 ounces. Consumers who can’t juice their own fruits and veggies should look for a combination fruit and vegetable juice, such as V8 Fusion, Varnedoe said. With fruit 100 percent juice, the serving size is only 4 ounces, which Varnedoe claims many people do not realize since they don’t read the label.
The best way to get all the vitamins needed is to eat a “rainbow” of colors each day.
“Variety and balance are important. Having the same fruits and vegetables all the time keeps you in the same nutrient spectrum, which is not good,” she said. “The more different brightly colored fruits and vegetables you eat the better.”
Different colored foods provide different nutritional and antioxidant benefits. For example, green leafy vegetables protect against certain cancers and macular degeneration. Orange fruits and vegetables can protect against night blindness, and red vegetables are for heart health, Varnedoe said. She added that all fruits and vegetables are beneficial, but those that are the brightest and darkest in color — green, yellow, orange, red, and purple — pack the most punch.
Varnedoe said she sees the effects of poor nutrition on a daily basis and has seen some disturbing trends in Liberty County.
“People are eating out more and eating more processed foods and refined carbohydrates; fruits and vegetables are not their first options,” she said.
Poor diet is leading to a higher rate of type 2 diabetes within the county, including children. Varnedoe said she has seen several cases of juvenile type 2 diabetes in children as young as 12. These are trends she hopes to reverse with education.
Parents affect their children’s diets; kids eat what is served to them, she said. Parents need to make better choices for the health of their children. A good first step is to keep fruits and vegetables on hand as an alternative to sugary snacks.
“Children tend to prefer healthy snacks if given the choice,” Varnedoe said. She suggests checking out www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org for more information.