By Justine Springer, Program Evaluator, Army Public Health CenterSeptember 2, 2015
Today's consumer is constantly bombarded with food messages, from companies boasting "the ultimate performance food" to celebrities endorsing "the next miracle cure." With all of these competing messages, it can be hard to know which foods to choose for optimal health. Yet nutrition doesn't have to be confusing or complicated and you can start to improve your diet today with one simple action: EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGGIES! It may seem obvious, but according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as much as 80 percent of Americans do not get the daily-recommended amount of these essential foods.
Why Fruits and Veggies?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fruits and vegetables should be consumed more than any other food group because of their MANY benefits. First, fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber. Fruit and vegetables fill you up and keep you feeling full longer, making them the perfect choice to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Second, fruits and vegetables are great sources of key nutrients linked to a reduced risk of developing certain chronic diseases. They are loaded with fiber to help with digestion and keep the digestive system operating optimally.
A balanced diet including lots of fruits and vegetables promotes energy, endurance, stamina and muscle growth. The Army Surgeon General's Performance Triad initiative encourages Army leaders to promote proper nutrition (as well as sleep and physical activity) as an important pillar in improving readiness and increasing resiliency of Soldiers as well as our civilians. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with carbohydrates, natural antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that enhance recovery and support a healthy immune system. They are important for fueling an active and ready Army Force.
How to get more?
• Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season. In season, produce generally cost less and are more likely to be at their peak flavor.
• Buy fruits and vegetables that are easy to prepare. Fruits and vegetables are nutritious in a variety of forms. Stock up on frozen or canned fruits and vegetables for options that have a longer shelf life and that are quick and easy to prepare. Just watch out for added sodium and sugars in canned products.
• Buy fresh fruits and vegetables such as bagged lettuce, baby carrots, grape tomatoes and whole fruits that don't require cutting (such as berries, bananas, apples, grapes etc.) so you can have a quick healthy meal or snack.
• Add vegetables to main dishes at meals and choose fruits as snacks. Try a vegetable stir-fry or adding chopped vegetables to pasta sauces.
• Try something different. Varying your fruit and vegetable consumption is not only essential for getting a variety of nutrients, but it will also make them more appealing by making the plate colorful and preventing boredom with the same repeated foods. The goal is to make half of the plate fruits and vegetables at every meal. So, start today. EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGGIES!