As swimsuit season approaches, so does the season for fresh fruits and vegetables! Are you ready for that sweet, juicy piece of watermelon or lush strawberry or missed the taste of fresh yellow squash or a juicy red tomato? If so, it is time for a delicious summer full of fresh produce!
We’ve all heard the old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" and it’s true that fruits and vegetables have many wonderful benefits. For good nutrition, Americans should consume about 325 to 575 pounds of fruits and vegetables each year. While that may sound like a lot, it’s really just five to nine half-cup servings or 2 1/2 - 5 1/2 cups/day.
If you’re trying to slim down for summer, fruits and vegetables are not only low in calories and fat but also boast plenty of fiber, which makes you feel fuller longer. It also keeps your digestive system running smoothly. Green leafy vegetables and carrots are rich in beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A, that’s necessary for good vision and healthy skin. Watermelon and tomatoes provide vitamin C to boost the immune system and help wounds heal properly. And vegetables also contain antioxidants that help lower risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
To get the most from summer’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, consider these ideas:
· Save on your grocery bill by planting your own small garden. Buy plants at a local nursery or co-op to plant in pots on your porch or a flowerbed. Then your produce will be ready for picking to create tasty and quick meals.
· Shop at your local farmers market. These hardworking individuals bring you fresh produce at excellent prices! There are several local produce stands as well as a farmers market in Fredericksburg. Don’t forget to take $1’s and $5’s and your reusable grocery bag!
· Get your kids involved. If you are planting a garden, let them help plant, weed and water it. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, ask them to pick out one or two. Then have the kids help prepare them in a dish or salad.
· Mix vegetables into your regular dishes. Add fresh or frozen green peas or grated carrots to spaghetti sauce or mix pureed sweet potato into the sauce. At breakfast, make yummy omelets by adding onion, bell pepper, fresh spinach and mushrooms.
· Make eating fruits fun by creating your own fruit kabobs. Simply use 2-3 fruits such as strawberries, pineapple and melon and lace them along a toothpick or skewer. Mix up a dip for the fruit combining low-fat whipped topping with fat-free yogurt.
· Don’t forget fun methods to prepare vegetables: cut them in bite size pieces to roast in the oven, make kabobs on skewers for grilling, enjoy them raw with light Ranch dressing or salsa, and steam or sauté them.
As this great season approaches, remember to make small changes daily and enjoy the harvest of summer!
Hannah Carroll is a dietetic intern at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas who completed a community nutrition rotation with Neva Cochran in April.