Focus on Fruits and Veggies

Note: As part of National Nutrition Month, we'll be highlighting tips from our Registered Dietitians around the theme of "Nutrition from the Ground Up." For more info see our kickoff post or visit ADA's National Nutrition Month page.

By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD   Date 3/19/10

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet doesn't mean having to eat things that you don't like. The key is to understand that you have choices when it comes to getting your recommended intake of fruits and veggies.
Getting the most flavors from your favorite-or even less loved-fruits and vegetables doesn't have to involve heavy-duty preparation, but some people find that different cooking methods add appeal. For example, I'm not one to enjoy raisins as a cold snack, but some raisins added into wild rice with chopped apples, walnuts, and cilantro sounds delightful.

Need some inspiration? Here are 5 reasons to help you get you started eating more fruits and vegetables today:

1. Naturally low calorie
Whether you plan your main dish around fruits and vegetables or use them to fill in the sides, adding more fruits and veggies is a guilt-free way to bulk up your meals while keeping the calories low. It's a secret weapon for weight management.

2. Fiber fills you up
Speaking of filling up, high fiber foods may take longer to chew and keep you feeling satisfied longer. Whether they are canned, frozen or fresh, many whole fruits and vegetables are a good source of fiber. Fiber is also a key player in maintaining a happy, healthy digestive tract. It's a win-win situation.

3. Antioxidant goodness
Consumption of antioxidants is thought to provide protection against oxidative damage and contribute positive health benefits. While the body has its defenses against oxidative damage or stress, these defenses are thought to become less effective with aging. Most research points to health benefits from fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants.

4. Get more for your money
Fruits and vegetables are chocked-full of various vitamins and minerals that we all need to keep our bodies running at optimum performance. By stocking up on sale items and shopping for seasonal produce, you're sure to get the best bargain.

5. Ultimate convenience food
Lots or fruits and vegetables don't require any preparation next to washing or peeling. Take advantage of their raw goodness and enjoy something that nature has already prepared for you. Consuming fruits and vegetables is truly nutrition from the ground up.

Don't be afraid to discover a new way to dress up an old favorite. There are lots of approaches for preparing fruits and vegetables that can seriously vary the taste. Try sautéing cauliflower with nutmeg and oil or spinach with garlic. The possibilities are seemingly endless. And, If you are feeling adventurous consider checking out The Flavor Bible to make your own interesting fruit and vegetable flavor combinations.  

What are your most unique fruit and vegetable pairings? I love yogurt with blueberries and spiced cinnamon.