NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Summer Fruits & Veggies

Summer Fruits & Veggies


“I know I should eat more fruits and vegetables. But how?"; "How can I get my kids to eat more vegetables?"; Are oranges the only foods with vitamin C?"

Do any of those questions sound familiar? Fruits and vegetables are key components of a healthy diet. Everyone needs 5 to 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables for the nutrients they contain and for general health.

Nutrition and health may be reasons you eat certain fruits and vegetables, but there are many other reasons why you choose the ones you do. Perhaps it is because of taste, or physical characteristics such as crunchiness, juiciness, or bright colors.

For some of us, summertime just wouldn't be the same without fresh produce. Maybe you garden or take trips to a local farmers market. Grocery stores often have even more than usual the amounts and variety of fruits and vegetables in the summer.

Whatever the reasons you select certain fruits and vegetables, the important thing is that you eat them and encourage children to do the same. With vegetables, you and your family are getting delicious food and, nutritionally, you are getting many of the nutrients needed for good health vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. With such a large selection of fruits and vegetables to choose from-with colors across the rainbow-you can find a variety to eat.

Fruits and vegetables give you many of the nutrients that you need: vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, water, and healthful phytochemicals. Some are sources of let vitamin A, while others are rich in vitamin C, folate, or potassium. Almost all fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and none have cholesterol. All of these healthful characteristics may protect you from chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.  A current recommendation from the Center for Disease and Control is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables and the more color the better. Try to eat at least 3 different colors of vegetables each day.

How many veggies a day do you need? Adults need at least 2.5 cups of vegetables each day. Children need at least 1.5 cups of vegetables each day. Every body is different. At http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/fruitsvegetables/howmany.htm you can enter your age, sex, and level of physical activity to find the amount of veggies that is right for you.

What counts as a serving? For fruits, ½ cup of fruit is  one medium piece of fruit,  1/2 grapefruit, 1/4 small cantaloupe, 1/4 cup dried fruit, 1/2 cup berries, a dozen grapes or 3/4 cup fruit juice (100% juice). For vegetables, a serving is 1/2 cup chopped vegetables, 1 cup raw leafy vegetables (a small salad), 6-8 carrot sticks 3" long), 1 medium potato or 1/2 cup cooked or canned dry beans or peas

Tips to Help You Eat Vegetables

  • Buy fresh vegetables in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor.
  • Stock up on frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking in the microwave.
  • Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare. Pick up pre-washed bags of salad greens and add baby carrots or grape tomatoes for a salad in minutes. Buy packages of veggies such as baby carrots or celery sticks for quick snacks.
  • Use a microwave to quickly “zap” vegetables. White or sweet potatoes can be baked quickly this way.
  • Vary your veggie choices to keep meals interesting.
  • Try crunchy vegetables, raw or lightly steamed.
  • For the Best Nutritional Value:
    • Select vegetables with more potassium often, such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
    • Sauces or seasonings can add calories, saturated fat, and sodium to vegetables. Use the Nutrition Facts label to compare the calories and % Daily Value for saturated fat and sodium in plain and seasoned vegetables.
    • Prepare more foods from fresh ingredients to lower sodium intake. Most sodium in the food supply comes from packaged or processed foods.
    • Buy canned vegetables labeled "reduced sodium," "low sodium," or "no salt added." If you want to add a little salt it will likely be less than the amount in the regular canned product.
  • At Meals:
    • Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a vegetable stir-fry or soup. Then add other foods to complement it.
    • Try a main dish salad for lunch. Go light on the salad dressing.
    • Include a green salad with your dinner every night.
    • Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, quick breads, and muffins.
    • Include chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna.
    • Order a veggie pizza with toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, and ask for extra veggies.
    • Use pureed, cooked vegetables such as potatoes to thicken stews, soups and gravies. These add flavor, nutrients, and texture.
    • Grill vegetable kabobs as part of a barbecue meal. Try tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.
  • Make Vegetables More Appealing:
    • Many vegetables taste great with a dip or dressing. Try a low-fat salad dressing with raw broccoli, red and green peppers, celery sticks or cauliflower.
    • Add color to salads by adding baby carrots, shredded red cabbage, or spinach leaves. Include in-season vegetables for variety through the year.
    • Include beans or peas in flavorful mixed dishes, such as chili or minestrone soup.
    • Decorate plates or serving dishes with vegetable slices.
    • Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator. Carrot and celery sticks are traditional, but consider red or green pepper strips, broccoli florets, or cucumber slices.
  • Vegetable Tips for Children:
    • Set a good example for children by eating vegetables with meals and as snacks.
    • Let children decide on the dinner vegetables or what goes into salads.
    • Depending on their age, children can help shop for, clean, peel, or cut up vegetables.
    • Allow children to pick a new vegetable to try while shopping.
    • Use cut-up vegetables as part of afternoon snacks.
    • Children often prefer foods served separately. So, rather than mixed vegetables try serving two vegetables separately.


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