Eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day provides a variety of health benefits. Fruits and vegetable are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and other nutrients and contain hundreds of phytochemicals.
Along with physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight, eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day promotes good health and reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
The national "5 A Day for Better Health Program," established in 1991 as a partnership between the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, is the largest public-private partnership for nutrition and health in the world.
All national health authorities support 5 A Day including: the surgeon general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Public Health Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Cancer Society, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Heart Assn.
Q: Are most children eating 5 A Day?
A: Most children in the United States are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Fewer than 15 percent of elementary students eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Average fruit and vegetable intake among 6- to 11-year-old children is only 3.5 servings a day. More than half of elementary students eat no fruit on any given day and three out of 10 students eat less than one serving of vegetables a day. One quarter of all vegetables eaten by elementary students are french fries, a high-fat, low-nutrient vegetable option.
According to the USDA, poor nutrition "including eating too much fat, sugar and sodium and not eating enough fruits and vegetables" affects students' performance in school. Poor nutrition affects children's energy levels, ability to concentrate and ability to learn. Poor nutrition also leads to increased illness and absenteeism.
Q: Do you have any ideas on how to start eating 5 A Day?
A: Eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables is easy, especially if you have a plan. The following guidelines can help you develop your plan for fitting in 5 A Day everyday.
Â At every meal and snack eat at least one serving of a fruit or vegetable.
Â Start your morning off with a glass of 100 percent fruit juice. Just 6 fluid ounces counts as one serving.
Â For a morning snack, eat a piece of fresh fruit, such as a banana, apple, orange or pear. A medium piece of fruit counts as one serving.
Â Eat a large salad with your lunch. A large salad with 3 cups of mixed greens counts as three servings.
Â For an afternoon snack, munch on raw vegetables like celery sticks or baby carrots. A handful of celery sticks or baby carrots counts as one serving.
Â For dinner eat a dark green leafy vegetable, such as broccoli or spinach. Just 1/2 cup of any cooked vegetable counts as one serving.
Â For an evening snack, choose dried fruit like raisins or dried plums. Just 1/2 cup of dried fruit counts as one serving.
Every day eat at least one vitamin A rich fruit or vegetable, such as cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potato, spinach or broccoli. Every day eat at least one vitamin C rich fruit or vegetable, such as orange juice, grapefruit, fresh pineapple, green pepper or cauliflower. Every day eat at least one high fiber fruit or vegetable, such as apples, grapefruit, or broccoli. Several times each week eat cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts or cabbage.
Here are some recipes using a variety of vegetables for you to enjoy during these autumn days. These recipes are provided courtesy of Judy Doherty, executive editor of Communicating Food for Health.
3 cups dry penne pasta or any small shaped pasta
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup nonfat chicken broth
3 cups assorted fresh or frozen vegetables
1 15-ounce can Italian recipe stewed tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
4 tablespoons parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in colander and set aside until ready to use. Spray a large, nonstick skillet with vegetable oil cooking spray and heat to medium high. Add garlic and saute until nutty brown; add the broth, vegetables and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender which is about 5 minutes. Toss sauce with cooked pasta and fresh basil. Serve each portion with 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top. Makes 4 servings.
Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: 330 calories, 2.5 grams total fat, 5 mgs cholesterol, and 380 mgs sodium. Daily Value Per Serving: 8 percent Vitamin A, 15 percent calcium, 100 percent vitamin C and 30 percent iron.
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup each (chopped): tomato, zucchini, yellow squash, bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder, dried oregano, lime juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Dash hot pepper sauce
4 8-inch, fat-free tortillas, warmed
Preheat broiler. Spread the vegetables out on a cookie tray and broil for 5 to 12 minutes until they are browned. Combine veggies with rice, seasonings, vinegar and pepper sauce. Spoon 1 cup of the filling down the center of each tortilla and roll up. Makes 4 servings.
Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: 180 calories, 1 gram total fat, 0 mgs cholesterol, and 190 mgs sodium. Daily Value Per Serving: 10 percent Vitamin A, 6 percent calcium, 110 percent Vitamin C, and 6 percent iron.
Â Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.