January 11, 2010

New Foods for a New Year: Adding new fruits and vegetables to your diet.

By Wendy N. Brown, Dietetic Intern, Bay Pines VA Healthcare SystemPinellas County Extension

Bored with the same foods from day to day? Want to try something new? Reach for a fruit or vegetable! Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, contain an assortment of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, vitamin C, and potassium, and may reduce the risk of some diseases.

The following are five helpful ideas to help you get started.
1. Vary the variety. Any type of fruit or vegetables is good: fresh, frozen, dried, canned or 100% juice. A mix of different textures, colors, and taste will add diversity to each meal. When choosing fruits and vegetables that are canned or dried look for lower sodium options and fruit that is canned in its own juice rather than heavy syrup.

2. A good cup or two will do. Depending on your physical activity level, the average adult American needs two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day (based upon a 2,000-calorie intake), with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level. An example of one fruit serving is a large banana or eight large strawberries. For vegetables, one cup chopped cucumber or twelve baby carrots are considered one serving.

3. For everything there is a season. Fruit and vVegetable availability is based upon where you live and the season of the year. Some foods available year round include: avocados, bell peppers (green, red, orange, yellow), mushrooms, papaya and spinach. During the winter months (December, January, and February), apples, brussels sprouts, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, winter squash (acorn, butternut) and sweet potatoes are readily available. So, explore your options, be creative in your choices and try one or two new fruits/vegetables per week. For more information on locally grown produce go to

4. Remember the Rainbow. Add variety to your meals by choosing from a range of colors: red, yellow/orange, green, white, blue/purple or tan/brown. Each color of the fruit or vegetable provides many different important nutrients our bodies need, such as antioxidants. The antioxidants found in red foods, such as tomatoes and grapes, protect cells from harmful damage and help to keep our hearts healthy. Antioxidants vitamins A and C found in orange/yellow foods and help to reduce the risk of heart disease as well as helping to maintain eye health. Many other nutrients as well as those mentioned above are found in other fruits and vegetables. The more of a variety of these fruits and vegetables you consume, the more variety of powerful nutrients you put into your body.

5. Be creative with your meals. Find innovative ways to incorporate new fruits and vegetables into your meals. Add a vegetable or two to soups and casseroles, drink 100% fruit juice instead of soda, add two to three fruits to a salad for a colorful topping or include a new vegetable in a sandwich wrap. Search through cookbooks or family recipes and find new ways to include new food items with your favorite dishes.

For more information about fruit and vegetable nutrition go to:

Start the New Year off right by finding creative ways to include new fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.

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