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A Balanced Diet Part IV: Fruits

Whole grains and vegetables for every meal are great, but here’s a good way to add even more variety to your diet: eat fruit!  Fruit is colorful, flavorful and good for you.  The Fruit group is made up of berries (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry), citrus (orange, grapefruit, tangerine), melons (watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe), tropical (banana, mango, pineapple), stones (cherry, peach, plum) and others (apple, grape, pear).  Eating a healthy amount of fruit per day can reduce the risk of heart disease, help protect against some types of cancer, reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity, lower blood pressure and decrease bone loss.  It is also low in fat and sodium while rich in potassium, dietary fiber, Vitamin C (helping with growth, healing wounds, maintains healthy teeth and gums), folic acid (reduces risk of birth defects and aids in formation of red blood cells), and Vitamin A (an antioxidant).

Fruit is classified as whole or cut fruit or 100% fruit juice that arrives on your plate (or in your glass) fresh, canned, frozen, dried or pureed.  A serving of fruit can be one large apple, one cup of natural applesauce, one cup of 100% fruit juice, one cup of grapes, one large orange, or eight big strawberries.  Two to four servings per day are recommended, the equivalent of one to three cups.  Following these recommendations allow the dietary fiber content of fruit to provide fullness without the high caloric content of many other diet choices.

Half of each plate should contain fruits and vegetables to ensure that all the nutritional value of your meal is to getting into your system.  Eating fruit raw will provide the best benefits since processing or canning can cause nutrients, vitamins and water to be lost.  A good way to get enough fruit is to keep whole fruit on the table or counter.  Pre-cut packages can be kept in the refrigerator with dip or low fat dressing, tossed on top of cereal, mixed in with waffles and pancakes, or stirred up with yogurt.  Make sure to clean fruit under running water and dry before preparing and eating, as well as keeping cleaned fruits away from raw meat, seafood and poultry.

Take an apple to work and keep sliced oranges in the refrigerator and you’ll be ready to get your proper amount of fruit per day!

For more information on the Fruit Group, check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruit.html, and come back in for our next installment, A Balanced Diet Part V: Meat, Poultry, Beans, Eggs and Nuts.

 

A Balanced Diet Part III: Vegetables

So now you’re eating the right kind of grains, it would be great to have something to go with them.  Vegetables are an integral part of any diet, adding flavor, color and nutritional value to any meal.  They contain no cholesterol, and are low in fat and calories.  The dietary fiber present in vegetables helps lower the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, while aiding in the prevention of certain types of cancer and obesity.  This dietary fiber gives vegetables to ability to give a feeling of fullness with fewer calories than many other foods.  Found in vegetables, Vitamins A and C keep eyes and skin healthy, help heal cuts and wounds, and aid in maintaining healthy teeth and gums.

There are five types of vegetables: dark green (broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach), starchy (corn, green peas, potatoes), beans and peas (kidney beans, split peas, black beans), red and orange (butternut squash, carrots, tomatoes), and other vegetables (beets, celery, zucchini).  It is recommended that adults (ages 9 and over) consume between two and three cups of vegetables each day.  A cup is measured using chopped vegetables, and any whole vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a serving.  Beans and peas are special because they are also a great source of plant protein, which makes them similar to meat, poultry and fish.  Vegetarians and vegans, who don’t consume animal protein, should consume larger amounts of protein filled beans and peas to make sure they are getting enough dietary protein.

There are a few keys to getting the right kind of nutrition from your vegetable selections.  The first is to buy fresh and in season.  Fresh foods contain less sodium and more flavor.  If fresh options aren’t available, choose canned or frozen vegetables that are labeled ‘reduced sodium’, ‘low sodium’ or ‘no salt added’.  To make adding vegetables to a meal easy, buy prewashed bags of salad, or be sure to rinse all vegetables with clean water and dry before cooking or preparing.  Once they’re clean and ready to go, add them to any dish for an infusion of color and flavor.  Also try using vegetables as snacks by adding a low fat dressing as a dip.  Keeping some pre-sliced vegetables in the fridge helps make eating these nutritious foods quick and simple.

So throw some green, red or orange vegetables in with your next meal and make it a nutritional success!

For more information on the Vegetables Group, check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables.html, and check back in for the next Segment, A Balanced Diet Part IV: Fruits.