Americans typically eat only one-third of the recommended daily intake (three servings instead of nine) of fruits and vegetables. While a vegetable in any form is better than no vegetable at all, fresh is generally better than frozen. When vegetables are in-season, I recommend they be purchased fresh and ripe but “off-season,” frozen vegetables still give you a high concentration of nutrients. Choose packages marked with a USDA “U.S. Fancy” shield, which designates produce of the best size, shape and color; vegetables of this standard also tend to be more nutrient-rich than the lower grades “U.S. No. 1” or “U.S. No. 2.” Eat them soon after purchase: over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do inevitably degrade. Finally, steam or microwave rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins.
Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Compared with people who consume a diet with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.
To get a healthy variety, think color. Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives your body a wide range of valuable nutrients, like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Some examples include green spinach, orange sweet potatoes, black beans, yellow corn, purple plums, red watermelon, and white onions. For more variety, try new fruits and vegetables regularly.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is celebrating national Fruit & Veggies – More Matters Month during September. They are offering tips to help you fit more fruit and vegetables into your diet while keeping within your budget. You can still get your daily intake of fruit and vegetables without breaking the bank. Check out their Web site to learn 30 ways to add more fruits and vegetables in your diet in just 30 days, including some good recipes! http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Fruits%26Veggies/.
Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian of Associates in Nutrition in Florida. She has been practicing for 18 years and was recently named president of the Southwest Florida Dietetic Association. A “nutrition entrepreneur,” she works contractually and is also a writer, motivational speaker, product researcher, counselor, sports-nutritionist and eating disorder advocate. Continue to read her series on Tuesdays. You can contact Elaine at www.AssociatesinNutrition.com, Email her at Elaine@associatesinnutrition.com.
Back-to-school means back to the courts and fields for student athletes. Reaching peak athletic performance doesn’t mean you have bulk up on carbohydrates or chug the latest sports and energy drinks. Student athletes have unique nutritional needs, requiring approximately 2,000 to 5,000 calories per day, depending on body composition, amount of exercise and other health factors.
Here are some tips for fueling your body for optimal strength and energy:
-Eat a variety of foods including protein, carbohydrates, fats, calcium, minerals and vitamins; lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and dairy for calcium provide a balanced diet
-Avoid supplements and steroids, which can have negative side effects on your health
-Avoid extreme diets. Youth athletes require the proper amount of nutrition and depriving your body of proper nutrients can cause decreased energy, muscle loss and sometimes, more serious health problems
-Hydrate with water; avoid caffeine and sugary drinks
Before practices and games:
-Be sure to eat a small, balanced meal approximately 2 to 4 hours before the event and include proteins and carbohydrates such as a turkey sandwich, or pasta and tomato sauce
-No time for a meal? Eat a light snack less than 2 hours before the event such as low-fiber fruits, crackers or yogurt
-Hydrate by drinking plenty of water before, during and after sports activities; avoid caffeine
Because body sizes and activity levels vary from person-to-person, you need to alter your diet to fit your individual needs. For more information, visit http://www.mypyramid.gov/ and create a personalized plan that works best for you.