March is National Nutrition Month, so this is the perfect time to introduce a guest blogger, Ann Dugan, who will address the question, “How is your diet adding up?” Anne Dugan, RDN, LD, will be working along side me and my clients to work on one of the core issues that most of us need help with, our nutrition and diet. Ann will also be participating in our More than a Meal event taking place on March 19 and there is still time to sign up – so you should definitely do that today! – Sonia
How is your diet adding up?
It’s that time of year when everyone is regrouping after the Holidays and anxiously awaiting spring. So it’s a good time to assess the changes we need to make in our lives. Instead of focusing on what to avoid, let’s look at what we can add to our diets to enhance their nutritional value. One way to do this is to increase our vegetable and fruit intake.
There are many benefits to eating vegetables and fruits. People who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of a healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of chronic diseases. They provide much needed vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients for health. They are low in fat, sodium and calories. Besides, they add color, flavor and texture to your meals. They should be the foundation of a healthy diet. A good rule of thumb is to have a minimum of 6 – 8 servings/day, but most of us fall short on meeting that goal. One way to accomplish this is to have half your plate consist of vegetables and fruits. Your goal should be to consume fresh, whole, organic produce. Fresh vegetables and fruit that are in season are at peak flavor and less expensive. Get in the habit of washing your fresh produce soon after you return from shopping, so it is ready to be eaten. Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner. Place colorful fresh fruit where everyone can easily grab something for a snack. Frozen, canned (in 100% juice or water) and dried will work when fresh is not available. If you can’t obtain organic, any vegetables and fruit are better than none. Just try to wash them with a vinegar and water solution (1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 cup water is one that works as a spray).
Another option to amp up your consumption of vegetables and fruits is to juice them. This has become more popular lately with commercial juice stores now appearing everywhere. Juicing allows you to obtain more servings and a wider variety of vegetables and fruits beyond what you could possibly eat. Unfortunately, cooking and processing fruits and vegetables destroys some of the vital micronutrients contained in them by changing their chemical makeup. Juicing makes all those sensitive micronutrients available for your body to be easily absorbed and used as antioxidants, anti-bacterial or anti-viral substances, support for the immune system, detoxification enzymes in the body, etc. The focus should be on juicing more vegetables than fruit, especially if you are overweight, have high cholesterol/triglycerides, high blood pressure or diabetes. Fruit, since it contains natural sugar, can add too much sugar to your diet if eaten in excess. A guide to use would be to have 80% vegetables and 20% fruits. Remember that the juice is not a complete meal, but rather a snack or a supplement to a meal. It is always good to start with vegetables and fruits that you already enjoy non-juiced. Your options as to what combinations you use are up to your imagination.
There are many types of juicers available. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a juicer to start out with. If you don’t have a juicer, you can pretty much put the same ingredients in a blender with the addition of a little water and have an enjoyable drink. However, it is more difficult for your body to extract the nutrients from the blended vegetables and fruits since it contains the pulp and fiber. Along the same lines, you can add fruits and vegetables to smoothies made with yogurt or protein powder for a delicious meal.
With any of these options of adding vegetables and fruits to your diet, you are on your way to a healthier you. There are still many more things you can do. If you have any questions or need more information, contact me.
Ann Dugan, RDN, LD