fruits & vegetables: more really does matter! mama jess contributor, lori post

Posted by on Apr 26, 2012 in blog

Hello Friends –

 

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to our new contributor to Mama Jess Blog, Lori Post, R.D., L.D. I have had the honor of knowing Lori for over a decade now. We met and had so much in common – especially our passion for healthy eating (and our families!). We both majored in Nutrition, worked at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago and both really ignited our love of nutrition when we had & fed our kids.

I’ve gotten to watch Lori through the years feed her growing family. She always keeps current on Nutrition topics & trends and practically applies that knowledge to her life. She has been an example to me in feeding her family the most balanced diet at every stage.

So…you lucky readers – enjoy learning from ‘Mama Lori’. She’ll be a monthly contributor to our blog. You can also feel free to address nutrition questions & topics with her at lori@mamajess.com

 

Enjoy!

Mama Jess

 

Fruit and Vegetables:  More Really Does Matter!

 

Every step taken towards eating more fruits and vegetables helps you and your family be at their best.  While the field of nutrition is no stranger to controversy, the recommendation to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables we consume is universally accepted.  And for good reason!  The potential benefits associated with eating more fruits and vegetables stacks quickly.   A growing body of research shows that fruits and vegetables are critical to promoting good health and preventing chronic disease.  Those who eat more generous amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthful diet reduce their risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.  They also fend off obesity.  It’s no wonder why the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating fruits and vegetables more than any other food group!  The latest effort to promote greater intake of these important foods came from the USDA and Michelle Obama as they jointly announced the new standards for the school lunch program, increasing the number of servings of fruits and vegetables now required per student meal.

 

Fruits and vegetables are truly an important source of nutrients that help kids grow.  From building tissue and promoting cell growth, the rich supply of vitamins and minerals keeps kids’ bodies healthy and energized.  Different fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals so it is important to include variety as much as possible.  While there are literally thousands of beneficial nutrients within fruits and vegetables, there are a few which are especially noteworthy for growth and maintenance of a healthy body.

 

Vitamin A – found as carotenoids in fruits and vegetables, helps keep eyes and skin healthy and helps protect against infection, especially of the nose, throat and lungs.  Good sources of this essential nutrient are found in red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables like watermelon, guava, papaya, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, winter squash and carrots as well as dark green vegetables like asparagus, brussels sprouts and kale.

 

Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant, helps heal cuts and wounds, keeps teeth and gums healthy and is important for improving the absorption of iron.  Citrus fruits and berries are very good sources of this important vitamin as well as dark green, blue and purple foods like kiwi, green peppers, brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, grapes, blackberries and blueberries.

 

Potassium – helps maintain healthy blood pressure.  With all the sodium added to our foods today, ensuring adequate potassium intake is all the more important.  Topping the list off those high in potassium are green leafy vegetables like spinach and deep orange vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes.  Avocado, bananas, cantaloupe, and kiwi are also potassium-packed.

 

Magnesium – necessary for healthy bones and is involved in more than 300 enzymes activities within your body!  Inadequate levels may result in muscle cramps and high blood pressure. Examples of vegetables rich in magnesium include spinach and butternut squash.

 

Calcium – essential for healthy bones and teeth but also for normal function of muscles, nerves and small glands as well as maintaining the body’s acid/base balance.  A diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps to buffer the acids of the animal products we eat and preserves calcium in the bone where growing kids need it most!

 

Fiber – promotes healthy intestines and heart health.  Kids with fiber rich diets are less likely to develop heart disease and high cholesterol.

Avocado, apples, blackberries, brussels sprouts, pears, and plums are all high in fiber.  Bananas, broccoli, green beans, kiwi, and sweet potatoes are also good sources.

 

In additional to the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables for growing kids, these foods can greatly influence their health in the future and may prevent obesity in the long term.  Diets containing more fruits and vegetables help promote a healthy body weight because they are naturally lower in calories and fat.  Loaded with nutrients and fiber, eating more fruits and vegetables helps to fill bellies and leaves less room for junk!

 

 

 

If you are feeling your children are no where near meeting the recommendation of 2 ½- 6 ½ cup servings/day, you are not alone. According to a 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 1 % of adolescents meet this goal!

 

Here are some tips to help you turn the statistics around in your family:

 

  1. Help kids learn the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables by doing!  Involve them in food planning and preparation. Ask your kids to help you select which fruits and vegetables you’ll include each week, then shop, cook and bake together! When you shop, play “I spy” in the produce section and let them choose which fruits and vegetables to add to the cart.  At home, let them wash fruits and vegetables for cooking or eating. Kids are great at snapping green beans and the flowerets of broccoli or cauliflower, tearing lettuce for salads and sandwiches, or using a potato masher to mash potatoes, including sweet potatoes.

 

  1. Be a good role model. Try to eat at least 3-4 meals together as a family each week – realizing not just dinner can count toward that goal.  Remember to add a weekday family breakfast or a weekend brunch to your total.  Let them see how you value your own body and care about the nutrients you consume!

 

  1. Keep a variety of fruits and vegetables in plain view.  Displaying fruits and vegetables in a colorful bowl in a place that is easily accessible can help greatly to increase consumption.  Grocery stores use this strategic plan effectively by placing candy and snack foods at eye level in the check out line!  Keep dried and canned fruits in a child friendly snack drawer and cut fruits and veggie sticks ready to grab from the fridge.

 

  1. Focus on healthy minds and strong bodies – spend time together learning about how the nutrients in fruits and vegetables can help their bodies grow strong.  While foods high in sugar, fat and calories may taste good, casually explain, if eaten in excess those foods can hurt their growth and development.

 

  1. Introduce new fruits and vegetables – a lot!  Research shows for our palate to get used to a new food, we need to taste it 8-10 times (or more)!  Offer small portions repeatedly, without fuss or fanfare.  The more you push your child to try something, the more you contribute to the possibility they’ll resist.  Aim high on nutritive value and incorporate those fruits and vegetables that will really pack in the vitamins, minerals and fiber no matter how big, or small, the bite!

 

 

Is your family looking for a brighter and healthier future???  Start today! Promote a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables!

 

Lori Post, R.D., L.D.