Self Check: How are you doing on your fruit and veggie intake?
Balance 360 Nutrition Advice: Eating Fruits and Vegetables
- Holly Larson, RD
Here's the truth: most of us, especially our children, are doing a crummy job eating enough fruits and vegetables. Despite their wealth of benefits ranging from supporting a healthy weight, improving our mood and helping to prevent cancers, not to mention their excellent taste and beauty, we need to get chomping. What's the hang up?
Too often we aren't preparing our own foods - we eat at restaurants more often than ever; we grab crunchy snacks such as chips and cookies; we don't feel like cooking after a long day at the office. And then there is the lack of knowledge and kitchen skills - how do you know how to pick a perfect eggplant? What does an eggplant even look like? Are frozen vegetables unhealthy? How do you chop an onion?
It is time to take a few small steps into the kitchen and try some new produce. Here is the good news: all forms of fruits and vegetables count towards the daily goal - fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice.
Aim for a Variety of Forms
Fresh: Try to eat local and in season for best nutrition and flavor.
Frozen: Frozen is a great choice too! It is already cut up, is often a mixture of colors, and is ready to add to soups, pastas, stir-fries and omelets. Avoid vegetables packed in sauces because they're likely loaded with salt. Frozen fruit is often more affordable than fresh, especially for berries, and make terrific smoothies and baked oatmeal - look for frozen fruit without added sugar. Frozen blueberries and grapes are a refreshing simple snack.
Canned: Canned tomato products are a good pantry staple when fresh tomatoes are out of season and no-sugar-added applesauce is delicious, too. When buying canned fruit, looks for fruits packed in juice, not syrup, to minimize added sugars.
Dried: Another great choice and an easy snack that can replace those chips and cookies is dried fruit. Look for dried fruit without added sugar to keep your snack from turning into dessert.
Juice: Small amounts of juice are ok, but minimize daily totals as it usually lacks the fiber and satiety of whole fruits and vegetables. If you're keeping your juice consumption around 4-6 ounces a day and you're selecting 100% fruit juice, you're ok.
Eat the Rainbow
A lot of what gives fruits and vegetables their color also lends to their nutritional value. Nature's paint brushes are called phytochemicals. Beta carotene in carrots and lycopene in tomatoes are just two examples from thousands. In general, the darker the color, the better. Spinach and kale have a bigger nutritional boost than iceberg lettuce. However, white produce has their own bounty of nutrients - don't skip the pears, onions, garlic and cauliflower.
Ask yourself: did you eat a rainbow yesterday? Red, blue/purple, white, orange, yellow and green? What colors are you missing?
Make Produce the Basis of Most Meals and Snacks
Instead of planning your meal around the chicken or beef, start with the broccoli. In your cereal bowl, add sliced bananas and dried fruit. Have bell pepper slices and pea pods with your sandwich and skip the chips. Stretch soups and stews with double the veggies. It doesn't have to be difficult - have fun with it!
Get Out of the Rut
Variety isn't just the spice of life, it is also the key to good nutrition. Are you always buying broccoli and apples? Try pears and kale increase. Swap those pretzel sticks for carrot sticks and see what menu staples can stand to hold some more veggie power.
About Balance 360 Clean Eating Nutrition System
A proprietary program available only to parents and their families who are actively enrolled at a Brain Balance Achievement Center, The Balance 360 System is specifically designed to for busy parents to easily manage a child’s nutrition and optimize a balanced brain. It’s a wholesome program that puts nutrition on the right track and supports our comprehensive approach to balancing the brain effectively and efficiently.
To learn why our whole-child approach is the most effective way to help your child overcome their learning, behavior, and social challenges, contact us online or find a center near you.