Perryman Nutrition Column: Turn Over a New Leaf in 2010 – Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

Note to Reporters: The following column was written by Shirley Perryman, an Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The department is part of the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University.

More than half of all Americans – 55 percent — want a healthier diet, according to a recent survey. Most of us know we should eat more fruits and vegetables; but most of us aren’t. Yet if we did we would lose extra pounds quicker which is a post-holiday goal for many.

If munching on fruits and veggies isn’t your norm store them in plain sight as a reminder. Store those that will keep at room temperature in a bowl on the kitchen counter. If your refrigerator crisper drawers are ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ put fruits and vegetables in plastic bags on eye level shelves. And if you’re just bored with the typical options, try something new to entice your taste buds into leading you to a better diet. The produce department has something for everyone.

Sample the cruciferous cousins:
– Broccolini, one of my favorites, is much sweeter than broccoli. Sauté its tender stalks in olive oil and garlic for a quick side dish.

– Brussels sprouts, which look like tiny cabbages, are delicious tossed in olive oil and oven-roasted. Sprinkle them with a little crisp bacon or spritz them with balsamic vinegar before serving.

– Chinese kale is quick to fix, too. Chop up the stems, leaves and florets and add them to a clear broth soup or a stir fry.

– Although tempting, avoid smothering cooked broccoli and cauliflower in high fat cheese sauce. Try sprinkling them with freshly grated sharp cheese such as parmesan or gruyere.

If you’re adventuresome and want to try something new, consider finding these naturally sweet treats at your produce section – mangosteen and acai and goji berries.

Mangosteen, not to be confused with mango, has appeared on at least one list of new super foods. This red fruit has a very exotic appearance. Beneath the thick rind is an edible white segmented fruit which is described as both sweet and tangy. Although it is being promoted as having miraculous benefits, science has not supported the health claims. However, if your budget can handle it, enjoy it as just another healthful fruit for variety.

Other fruits proposed as super foods are the acai and goji berry. If you are tossing them into your breakfast shake, enjoy the flavor, just as you would strawberries or blueberries, but know that a miracle food they are not. Berries offer healthful antioxidants — which help fight free radical damage — and they are naturally high in fiber and vitamin C, but researchers don’t put them into the miracle food category.

If you have children in your family, it’s even more important to include a variety of fruits and veggies. I had a friend who once told me that her children were allergic to green food; she was referring to vegetables. If your kids think “vegetable” is a bad word, as one television commercial implies, try a few new strategies to make their plate healthier:

– Make a game out of eating vegetables and fruits by trying a new fruit or veggie once a week.

– Include children in grocery shopping and food preparation. What happens in the kitchen when children are involved in food selection and preparation is magical.

– Keep in mind that young children need to be exposed to a new food eight to twelve times before they’re likely to accept it.

– Just as important is being a good role model for children when you try new foods, too.

Turn over a new leaf in the new year. Enjoy these guilt free treats along with their health benefits which will ensure you’ll feel like you are getting off to a healthy start in 2010.