Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

Back to School Means Back to Produce

Insider's Viewpoint: Carrie Taylor, Corporate Dietitian, Big Y Foods, Inc.

Start another school year glowing! Confused? When discussing fruits and vegetables with children, it often helps to emphasize their importance by explaining how they help us glow.* As an adult with children or even grandchildren, you can probably see the simplicity in this explanation. The nutrients (vitamins, minerals), fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables help with vision, bone, immune system, and cardiovascular health — put these together and you have a bright eyed, rose skinned, white toothed little angel that’s shinning as bright as the closest star!

The secret to fruits and vegetables being nutrition powerhouses is their color. As nutrition science advances, scientists are finding that some of the pigments that give produce their color are in fact different phytochemicals and antioxidants. Don’t give disease a fighting chance! Shoot for all colors of the rainbow on a daily basis to build a blanket of protection.

Children ages 6-13 years old should aim for three to five cups of fruits and vegetables each day. With school schedules abound, who has time to prepare this many fresh fruits and vegetables, right? Wrong! Fruit and veggie goals are based on all forms of produce — fresh, frozen, canned, and dried. Save time and money by focusing on seasonal fresh produce you know you’ll finish within 3-5 days, frozen varieties without added sauces or seasoning, canned veggies without added salt, canned fruits in juice or sugar-free syrup, and dried fruit.

Here is an example of how a busy child following an 1,800 calorie meal plan can eat their way to daily fruit and veggie goals while hitting each color of the rainbow:

  • Breakfast: Add two tablespoons of raisins to whole grain cereal.
  • Mid-Morning Snack: Snack on slices of one half of a small Gala apple dipped in peanut butter (Try soy nut butter for peanut-free schools!).
  • Lunch: Include one cup of corn, a side salad (one cup total of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet bell pepper slices) and a half cup of canned (i.e.: “snack size” cup) peaches in juice.
  • Afternoon Snack: Nibble on a quarter cup each of fresh green beans and carrot sticks (~4 sticks, 3 inches long) with low-fat yogurt dip.
  • Dinner: Enjoy a half cup of steamed cauliflower, one half of a large sweet potato mashed and a quarter cup of strawberries (2-3 medium berries).

* Thanks to Go Glow Grow Foods for You from the USDA Food and Consumer Service Program, 1996.

Carrie Taylor, RD, LDN
Corporate Dietitian
Big Y Foods, Inc.

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