Sara Dow is a ACE Certified Weight Management and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is also a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Small Group Trainer at the Y. Twice a month, her blog posts will feature nutrition education, a healthy recipe she has tried and loves, and tips to help you achieve your health goals, as well as answers centered around a nutrition question from a Y member.
You are not alone if you struggle to eat enough fruit and vegetables! A 2019 CDC study found that only 1 in 10 adults consume five combined servings of fruit and vegetables as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased risk of heart disease, respiratory disease, type 2 Diabetes, and cancer. Start small by adding just one daily serving and build over time to increase your intake.
Here are some simple suggestions to get you started.
- Add ½ cup of riced cauliflower (found in the frozen food section of the grocery store) to your favorite smoothie recipe.
- Reach for dried fruit such as apricots, mangoes, prunes, or raisins instead of candy when you feel the urge for a sweet treat.
- Choose 100% fruit juice (½ cup equals ½ a serving of fruit). Be aware that many “juice” drinks contain 5% or less of actual juice! Don’t be fooled by the front of packaging “fruit juice” claims. Check the nutrition label on the back to see what percentage is actually juice.
- Flip the dessert. Serve sliced fruit and berries with a dollop of ice cream on top, rather than ice cream as the base with a spoonful of fruit. Same for strawberry shortcake. Make berries the base with a shortbread garnish on top rather than the other way around!
- Fill your fridge with “nature’s fast food.” Clean and cut fresh fruit and veggies are a quick and convenient choice. Baby carrots, colorful bell peppers, melons, and grapes are great choices.
- Tuck an easily portable fruit into your gym bag, backpack, or lunch tote for a nutritious on-the-go snack. Consider an apple, banana, cutie, or a small serving of cherries, dates, grapes, or dried fruit.
- Keep canned and frozen fruits and vegetables on hand.
Note: Many consumers mistakenly believe fresh produce in the supermarket is superior to frozen or canned produce. Out-of-season produce may travel hundreds of miles on a boat or semi before ending up in your supermarket. The nutrients are degraded during transport, whereas frozen and canned produce is picked and preserved at the height of the season when nutrient quality is at its peak. Don’t be afraid to use frozen or canned produce when locally sourced in-season fruits and vegetables are unavailable. Just be aware that canned vegetables typically contain added sodium. If this is a concern, you can purchase low-sodium vegetables or rinse and drain canned vegetables to remove up to 40% of the sodium. Choose canned fruit packaged in water or juice rather than heavy syrup to avoid added sugar.
A Healthy Recipe…
Summer Fruit Medley by Sara Dow
This colorful fruit salad contains phytonutrients, antioxidants, and B vitamins.
- 2 pounds of red or green grapes
- 1 pound of strawberries, halved
- 2 cups watermelon chunks
- 2 limes (or ¼ cup bottled lime juice)
Preparation: Rinse, drain, and dry the grapes and strawberries. Add the watermelon chunks. Toss in a large bowl with juice from 2 limes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Yield: 6 servings
Options: Swap in honeydew melon or cantaloupe for the watermelon or replace it with blueberries, cherries, or kiwi fruit.
Nutrition information: Brightly colored fruits such as strawberries, watermelon, grapes, and blueberries are high in phytochemicals which research suggests may aid immune function, reduce inflammation, and help regulate hormones. Grapes are a good source of potassium which may help reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Strawberries and watermelon provide an abundance of the antioxidant vitamin C.
Check out this Resource…
The Produce for Better Health Foundation provides a wealth of resources and recipes to support individuals seeking to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. You can look up the nutrition information and storage guidance for individual fruits and vegetables and check out this guide to find out what fruits and vegetables are in-season in the spring.
Smoothies and Salads Workshop…
For delicious recipes and simple strategies to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet, check out my upcoming Smoothies and Salads Workshop at the Pabst Farms YMCA. In this interactive workshop, you’ll learn to prepare antioxidant-rich smoothies and vibrant salads packed with B vitamins to boost your energy for summer fun!
About Sara Dow
Hi, I’m Sara and I am passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the knowledge and practice of good nutrition.
In 2018, I was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian. I am now in my senior year, double majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics at Kansas State University. I am excited to share with you what I am learning.