After watching too much news about everyone who insists their way is right, I needed to write this column. Hopefully I won't get hate mail about the value of fruits and vegetables. In fact, the recommendation for us to eat a diet rich in plant foods is about the only thing experts and food gurus from all sides of the diet spectrum do not argue about.
Sometimes knowing is not doing, however. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. (That's 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit every day for most adults.)
Think about this: Nutrition researchers estimate that if just half of us decided to add one more serving of a fruit or a vegetable to our daily diet, 20,000 cases of cancer could be prevented every year. Why don't we do it? Here are some excuses I often hear:
"I don't like it." I'm not naming names, but my grandkids can fall into this pattern. "It's too expensive." I guarantee a bunch of bananas or a bag of carrots costs no more than a bag of chips. And don't let anyone make you feel guilty if you can't always get organic produce. Lists of "clean" and "dirty" fruits and vegetables are not supported by research done by food toxicologists at the University of California. Both organically and conventionally grown foods have been shown to boost our immunity and help us stay well.
"I don't like to cook." I can respect that. Keep reading.
"I don't have time to prepare vegetables." Ah ha! This is absolutely no longer true. Pre-washed salad mixes take about a minute to throw in a bowl and add dressing. Some even come with dressing. Granted, it might take another minute or two to wash a tomato, cucumber or whatever you have to add. It's worth it.
I was recently introduced to a new line of ready-to-eat salad bowls called Fresh Takes by Dole. For less money and time than a drive-through, pre-made salad bowls offer a complete meal, protein and all. These even come with a fork!
I had to wrestle my husband for the Santa Fe Style bowl: romaine lettuce, chili lime seasoned chicken, fire roasted corn, Mexican blend cheese and taco ranch dressing. For just 210 calories, it meets my criteria for a balanced meal: protein, vegetable, dietary fiber with other key nutrients such as potassium, iron and calcium. Add a few crackers and/or a beverage if you like and voila! A fast delicious way to add more vegetables to your day.
I understand we all have individual attitudes about food. Let's look for solutions instead of excuses.
(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of "Quinn-Essential Nutrition" (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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