Thursday, March 10, 2011

National Nutrition Month 2011

Mixed greens salad, Chicken with mango salsa, steamed broccoli, apple/cranberry risotto,
 angel food cake with fresh strawberries

March is National Nutrition Month!  This year’s theme is Eat Right With Color.  People who consume lots of colorful vegetables and fruits tend to weigh less, suffer fewer chronic diseases, and lead healthier lives compared to people who do not.  The produce section of the grocery store contains a wide array of colors and each one may have special properties that benefit our bodies; this is why it’s important to eat a variety of different colored vegetables and fruits.  To get in as many different colors each day try and consume at least one fruit or vegetable with each meal.  This may mean topping morning cereal with a cut up banana or fresh blue berries.  Sautéed mushrooms and peppers make ‘egg-celent’ additions to omelets and are a sneaky way to get veggies in at breakfast.  Sandwiches are another easy way to sneak in more vegetables by loading them up with fresh baby spinach, sliced cucumbers, and sprouts.  Dip fresh slices of apple in low-fat vanilla yogurt for a light and refreshing desert after super.
To ensure a variety of colorful produce people can try and eat ’the colors of the rainbow.’  This is done by consuming 1 vegetable or fruit each day that is Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, and/or White.  Foods that are red and orange contain vitamin A which is important for eye health.  These colors are also easy to spot.  Fill your shopping cart with mangos, tomatoes, carrots, and strawberries.  Foods such as yellow summer squash, bananas, white grapefruit, and corn contain vitamin C which is an important antioxidant.  Green foods such as broccoli, spinach, and green beans are believed to help prevent cancer.  The compound chlorophyll gives these vegetables their color and is believed to help prevent not only cancer but heart disease and even Alzheimer’s dementia.  Also, thanks to their high concentrations of vitamins C and A as well as iron and calcium, green vegetables are considered ‘super foods.’  Blue and purple colored foods might be harder to spot, but purple grapes black and blue berries are a good start.  Black berries and black beans also count.  The dark blue and purple colors contain high concentrations of antioxidants which help reduce inflammation in the body.  Inflammation occurs when the body is under stress or injured.  Chronic diseases such as arthritis, high blood pressure, and diabetes also cause inflammation.  Over time this inflammation can be very damaging to the body and its many different tissues.  White and brown produce like cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, and pinto beans are good for intestinal health.  Some people may experience gas and bloating after eating cauliflower and onions, but if eaten in small amounts each day the body will adapt and the bloating will decrease.  
Peeling, chopping, and preparing fresh produce can be time consuming.  Cutting up bell peppers, celery, and onions on the weekends can help make them easier/faster to use during the busy week nights.  Weekends or days off of work are also a great time to prepare snack bags filled with fresh grapes and baby carrots.  Before heading to work in the morning, grab a bag for an instant healthy snack later in the day.  Grocery stores also offer precut veggies such as broccoli, lettuce, and mushrooms.  These types of items are great for the super time crunched, as well as people who have limited knife skills.  Frozen vegetables can be very economical, especially for large families.  The produce is picked when it is the ripest and flash frozen.  Compared to canned vegetables, those that are frozen retain more vitamins and minerals and are not loaded with extra salt.  Stock up on large bags of frozen broccoli, green beans, and vegetable blends for a quick side to any meal.  
  Juices are an easy way to sip down a serving of fruit and in some cases, vegetables as well.  However, fruit juice contains the same number of calories from sugar as a similar serving of soda.  While juice contains vitamins and minerals it does not contain any fiber to help people feel full.  Because of these reasons, people who are trying to maintain or lose weight may find it helpful to limit juice to 4-6 oz per day.  For individuals who enjoy a glass of juice at breakfast, make sure to read the label as see that it contains only 100% juice.  Juice drinks such as ‘Sunny D’ contain very little real fruit juice and are mostly added sugar and corn syrup.  Just like whole fruit, try and pick juices with the most color. Orange, pink grapefruit, cranberry, and purple grape juice will contain more antioxidants than clear juices such as pear and apple. 
It’s easy to see why eating a variety vegetables and fruit is important to keeping our bodies as healthy as possible.  Celebrate National Nutrition Month by trying a few new fruits or vegetables and by trying to “eat the rainbow” people will ensure that they are consuming plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber; all of which are important to ensuring optimal health.        


  1. Do I recognize this photo? Great job with the writing. Happy RD Day!