NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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Reflect on Your Food Choices During National Nutrition Month

fruits and vegetables, health and nutrition, My Plate, food groups

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

During the past month I have had the opportunity to visit several classrooms in local schools.  While the curriculum for each grade is slightly different, the message is the same. Make good food choices now for better health in the future.

Only 25 percent of the U.S. population consumes adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Does that percentage include you? If not, that is OK. Small changes can add up to big improvements in our health.

Socially, we have become invested in health and nutrition. You hear about the next best diet on the local news station, your Facebook friend sells a new product, and meanwhile, your cousin tells you that sugar is the key to living longer. We are consumed by several different recommendations and guidelines, so how do we know what we really should be eating?

Nutrition is a science. The topic consistently is being researched to ensure optimal health. One thing we do know is that a magic pill and cure-all diets just do not exist. Finding reliable sources is important when looking for nutritional advice.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture created a guide to healthful eating called My Plate (www.choosemyplate.gov). The guide separates the plate into five categories, which represent all the food groups. The five groups are fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.

Despite the fact that you should eat from all the food groups, you should put an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Healthful eating patterns that include vegetables and fruit are associated with a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Half of your plate should be filled with an array of colorful fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables all count in helping us meet that guideline.

Fruits and vegetables add flavor and texture to a meal. Fruit is naturally sweet and can reduce the amount of added sugar sources you consume. Vegetables taste great in cold or hot dishes, and make a delicious snack and an easy side dish.

During March, which is National Nutrition Month, reflect on the food you typically eat. Where could you add in extra fruits and vegetables? Start with one meal at a time and focus on including more produce in place of other less healthful options.

Here are some ideas to help you increase your fruit and vegetable intake:

  • For safety, rinse all produce under running water before cutting.  See the NDSU Extension publication “Vary Your Veggies: How to Select and Store Vegetables.”  Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food and navigate to “food preparation.”
  • Keep colorful fruit and vegetables where you can see and grab them easily for an on-the-go snack.
  • Fill your freezer with frozen vegetables to steam for an easy side dish.
  • Blend fruits and vegetables into a smoothie.
  • Use vegetables as pizza toppings.
  • Replace chips with a crunchy vegetable and low-fat dressing.

Sources: McKenzie Schaffer, NDSU dietetic intern, and Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist

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