Posted on June 13, 2018 by Jana Renner
It’s summer, and that means a greater variety of fruit and vegetable options at the grocery store. Watermelon and cantaloupe are my children’s summer favorites. Even with summer options, it isn’t easy for us to get recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 12 percent of Americans report eating the recommended amount of fruit (1.5 to 2 cups per day depending on your age and amount of physical activity). Even less, 9 percent, eat the recommended amount of vegetables (2 to 3 cups per day). However, 2/3 of Americans report wanting to eat more vegetables, likely because of the health benefits associated with this behavior, including a lower risk of heart disease, some cancers, stroke, and diabetes. Vegetables in particular are naturally low in fat and calories and high in fiber.
There are many factors that affect fruit and vegetable consumption. Perception of ease of preparation and cost as well as skills around food preparation and cooking also come into play. And the reality is that vegetables aren’t as easy or convenient to prepare as other food options. We are all busy, and time is definitely a factor in our food choices.
A quick internet search on how to increase vegetable and fruit intake will take you to a lot of good information, and even simple recipes, dedicated to this topic. If you are concerned about cost, fresh fruits and vegetables are more affordable when they are in season. Many people think that fresh fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than frozen or canned options. This is not the case. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are affordable, nutritious options. In fact, some nutrients are at higher levels in canned or frozen vegetables and fruits. These items also have the benefit of a longer shelf life and decreased preparation time.
With a little preparation and planning, you can increase your families’ intake of vegetables and fruits. Some ideas include:
- Add vegetables to pizzas.
- Use frozen fruit in breakfast smoothies.
- Place fruit in accessible and visible locations in your home or workplace.
- Cut up vegetables and put them in plastic bags in the refrigerator for quick snacks.
- Use the microwave to steam fresh or frozen vegetables for a quick side dish.
Taste and willingness to try foods is a reason that many people, especially children, do not eat enough vegetables. Involving children in meal preparation, including planning, shopping, and cooking, is a way to get them interested in trying new foods. There are also benefits beyond improving their eating habits. Helping with cooking also can help develop skills in math, reading, and following instructions.
While I am going to buy watermelon and cantaloupe for my kids this summer, I will add some new vegetables to try as well. We will see if we have a new favorite fruit or vegetable by next summer.
You can find more information about the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables you should eat and other useful nutrition information on the USDA’s website: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables. The USDA also has a seasonal produce guide to learn about what fruits and vegetables are in season now: https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide.
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