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Fruit and Vegetables: Getting Enough?
Americans fall very short of the goal to eat five servings of vegetables and four servings of fruit. These guidelines are daunting at best. When one is dieting or watching the scale, this sounds like a perfect formula that would blow all your dieting triumphs, forcing you to choose between being overweight or healthy! I think, however, the following information may be helpful information to help sum this up into an eating plan that makes more sense for all.
First, let us define what a serving is as it is not as much as many think. In general, a fruit serving is 60 calories and a vegetable serving is 25 calories.
One fruit serving consists of:
1 small to medium piece of fruit
1 cup raw (cut-up) fruit
1/2 cup (4 ounces) fruit juice
1/4 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup canned fruit
1/2 of a banana
These are two serious problems our society faces yet it is that very same society that has inflicted these disorders on us. The statistics of these two eating disorders are alarming. The bulk of Americans today suffering from these eating disorders are among adolescent girls and young women.
One serving of vegetables consists of:
½ cup cooked vegetables
1 cup raw, leafy vegetables
½ cup (4 ounces) vegetable juice
To achieve these dietary goals, it is a good idea to take a proactive approach. With a very small investment of time, you and your family can eat nutritious meals that include an abundance of fruits and vegetables. When you go grocery shopping, try to account for five to nine servings of produce per day per family member.
To incorporate this into your daily diet, try to get the day off to a good start by eating two servings of fruit at breakfast time. This could be a banana sliced into a bowl of cereal, already accounting for two servings, or a fruit smoothie made with skim milk and one to two cups fresh or frozen berries. Choose whole fruit over juice to boost overall fiber content for the day. In general, limit fruit juice to one-cup a day for two of your fruit servings.
When packing lunches and snacks, try to include two fruit and two vegetable servings. Even if you typically go out for lunch, this is still a good habit. You will then have these items available to snack on throughout the day. A low-sodium tomato juice and one cup of raw fresh vegetables would cover the vegetable requirement. Most grocery stores now sell individual packages of bite-size vegetables. For fruit, add a cup of grapes and a nectarine or a pear. Convenience items in the produce department can save time during dinner preparation. Use pre-cut, bagged salad mixes you simply rinse, toss and serve. When choosing a salad mix, darker green means more nutrients. Add fruits such as apples, pears or dried cranberries to salads.
If you are not servings a salad, include cooked fresh or frozen vegetables for dinner. Your dinner plate should be half full of cooked vegetables to ensure three servings of vegetables for dinner. If you often eat out, make an effort to include a salad or cooked vegetable in your selection. French fries do not count, by the way!
Are you still feeling overwhelmed? It can sound like a bit too much, even with this attempt to simply the problem. To prevent boredom, choose a variety of textures and colors and do not be afraid to try something new. Here is a sample meal providing four fruit and five vegetable servings in a day.
BREAKFAST: Two fruits
SNACK: One fruit
LUNCH: Two vegetables and one fruit
SUPPER: Three vegetables
In addition to the above suggestions, if you enjoy cooking out there are an abundance of ways you can add vegetables to your cookouts. You could even try making produce the focus of a grilled meal instead of meat. For example, grill a whole red pepper, cooking until the skin begins to get dark and loosen. Then, seal it in a plastic bag for 15 minutes. Peel off the skin, remove the seeds and cut into strips. You may enjoy serving the pepper with balsamic vinegar or raw garlic and olive oil. This can be good hot or cold. If you are a bit more adventurous, you might try slicing zucchini, yellow squash or eggplant, lightly sprinkling with olive oil and grilling. Alternatively, make vegetable kebabs with bell pepper chunks and onions. A lightly oiled grilling basket makes a handy cooking container for sliced vegetables.
Whether you are cooking at home, eating at a restaurant or work or on the road a lot, it is still possible for you to get your daily requirement of fruits and vegetables. A little planning and ingenuity can go a long way!
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