Mom isn’t the only one to tell you to eat your vegetables. All health professionals are encouraging Americans to consume more fruits and vegetables. Even MyPlate came out in 2010 to remind you to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. The Produce for Better Health Foundation uses their program, Fruits & Veggies-More Matters, to help Americans increase fruit and vegetable intake and to know about the health benefits.
According to the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters website, about 90 percent of both adults and children are not getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diets. This is concerning because that means almost all Americans are missing out on the important benefits of fruits and vegetables that can help reduce risks for obesity and chronic diseases. September is designated as Fruits & Veggies-More Matters Month to campaign on ways to eat MORE fruits and vegetables through awareness and education.
As it has been relayed to consumers time and time again, fruits and vegetables have numerous benefits when it comes to health. They are full of phytonutrients (often referred to antioxidants) that may reduce risks for many chronic diseases. An example of a phytonutrient that most people know about is beta-carotene, known for being beneficial for vision and eye health. Beta-carotene is found in carrots, pumpkin, winter squash, apricots, and dark leafy green vegetables. Beta-carotene is most associated with the orange colored fruits and vegetables. All colors of fruits and vegetables have different phytonutrients associated with them so the more variety you eat, the more health benefits you’ll reap. In addition, they contain fiber and are low in calories to help maintain a healthy weight.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that consumers eat, at minimum, 3 to 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Aiming for a couple things may help you meet that need: fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and include them at each meal and snack. Not only fresh options count toward your intake, but so do frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent juice. Just be aware that juice and canned can be loaded with added sugars so make sure to read the nutrition label. Plan your meals around vegetables rather than the protein; incorporate fruit and/or veggie smoothies into your diet for snacks or any meal. Looking for locally grown produce? Visit idahopreferred.com to find locally grown products and to see what is in season to help save money on fresh fruits and vegetables.
More tips and resources can be found at www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org including meal planning, recipes, shopping tips, ways to include children in cooking, and much more. Take September and the months beyond to explore fruits and veggies that are new to you or new ways to cook and prepare your favorites. Eat a variety of colors that are not only beneficial to your health, but also visually appealing! Start here with Roasted Zucchini Parmesan found on the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters website:
Roasted Zucchini Parmesan recipe
• Alex Caspero, MA, RD, CLT
• Everyday Chef, Fruits & Veggies-More Matters
3 medium zucchini
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
4 cups marinara sauce
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil, for topping
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Trim the ends of the zucchini, then slice in half crosswise. Then slice into lengthwise slices, roughly 1/4-inch thick.
3. Rub zucchini with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, if using. Arrange zucchini slices on baking sheets in a single layer and roast for 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375°F.
4. Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Arrange a third of the zucchini in an even layer over tomato sauce. Spoon a cup of sauce over zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top and bubbly. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with basil, if desired, and serve.
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Kimberly Young, MS, RDN, LD, is the WIC Coordinator at Panhandle Health District and a graduate of the University of Idaho Dietetic program.