You need more than an apple a day. Nearly every health expert agrees that you need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. This is the way to better general health, normal weight and a good supply of antioxidants. But, unless you’re one of the few who actually get five a day, it may require some effort on your part. To help make it easier, here are some tips from experts in diabetes and nutrition.
Dr. Steven Leichter, who codirects the West Georgia Center for Metabolic Disorders in Columbus, Georgia, gives this advice to his patients. “Think of the main course as complex starches and vegetables, such as pasta with a low-fat vegetable sauce or rice mixed with vegetables. Think of meat, fish, chicken, or eggs as a side dish-around 5 ounces at a meal for the average person.”
Jane Kirby, RD, a writer who specializes in nutrition, says in her new book, Dieting for Dummies, “Vitamin pills can’t replace the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in produce.”
A big advocate of five servings, she also offers these hints:
- Even when you’re cooking something else, add fruits and vegetables. Kirby has an innovative way to do this to pasta. “When cooking pasta,” she says, “add shredded spinach, carrots, kale or green beans. Either throw them into the colander before you drain the pasta, or into the pasta as it’s still boiling, about two minutes before the pasta is done.”
- Concentrate on fruits and vegetables when you’re eating out. “With pizza, ask for extra vegetables, like broccoli or spinach. If you’re at a sandwich place, get lots of tomatoes and sprouts. Tell them to pile it on high,” Kirby says.
- “Eat your garnish.” The parsley, kale or fruit some restaurants use are not just meant to sit there and look pretty, says Kirby. “It may not be a full serving, but it’s better than leaving it on the plate.”
- “Even barbecuing can be a fruit and vegetable opportunity, not just hamburgers and hot dogs.” Grill vegetables along with the meat. And, after you’re done with the main course and the coals have died down, try a grilled fruit dessert. Throw on pineapple or peach slices. “It carmelizes the sugar and makes them just delicious,” Kirby reports.
- “Skip the carbonated beverages and try vegetable juice instead,” states Kirby, who highly recommends tomato juice.
Finding Fruits During Your Day
Finding delicious fruit is easy in most areas.
- “Eat one piece of fruit as a snack three times per day,” says Kris Berg, EdD, professor of physical education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
- “Eat grapefruit for breakfast,” recommends Dr. Gary Arsham, a diabetes practitioner in San Francisco.
- In Dieting for Dummies, Kirby states, “Breakfast is a good place to begin building up fruit servings.”
- Leichter offers this warning to obese people, particularly those with “apple core obesity,” or fat around the middle: Beware the fruits and fruit juices. “Juices or juicy fruits have a higher concentrate of fructose per bite, which may raise serum triglycerides. We prefer pulpy fruits like cantelope.”
Vanquish Your Vegetable Deficiency
If your parents never forced you, you can do it now. Experiment with a vegetable you’ve never had-or heard of-before.
- “As part of lunch, or a snack, eat carrot and celery sticks,” says Berg. “Always have three vegetables at dinner.”
- “Here’s what I do,” says Arsham. “Keep jars of cut vegetables in the fridge, like radishes, carrots and celery. There’s no barrier, and it’s not a hassle. And, eat a salad every day.”
Kirby’s book, published by IDG Books, is available at www.dummies.com.