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Fruits and veggies: Eat 'em up!


Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

Fruits and Vegetables

Home gardens will soon sprout tasty produce and farmer's markets will soon be filling our baskets. But you still need to eat healthy while you wait for plants to grow. So until then, consider all the ways you can stock your home with fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables in all their forms – fresh, frozen, canned, and dried – count towards your fruit and veggie needs. I will leave juice out of this post to focus on more whole forms of fruits and vegetables.

  • Fresh produce is often our first choice for fruits and vegetables, and you may only find some produce fresh, such as lettuces.
    • Eat fresh produce soon. The sooner fresh foods are eaten from when you buy them, the more nutrients they will have and the better quality they will be. (Is it just me, or has anyone else forgotten about those green beans in the back of your fridge? So wrinkly and floppy!)
  • Frozen produce is an easy and convenient way to add fruits and vegetables to your diet. You do not need to wash or cut these foods, only eat or cook them. Frozen fruits make easy smoothies and frozen veggies cook up in minutes for quick side dishes.
    • Buy unsweetened frozen fruit. Fruits are already deliciously sweet, so no need to buy varieties with added sweeteners.
    • Buy plain frozen veggies. Varieties with sauces and seasonings add extra fat and sodium, so save your money.
  • Canned produce (including those packed in plastic containers) are also easy and convenient ways to add fruits and vegetables into your diet. Stored at room temperature until opened, you only need shelf space to keep these foods. Individually packed containers even let you eat on-the-go.
    • Buy fruit packed in 100% juice or water. Varieties with syrups – even lite syrups – add extra calories and added sugar we do not need.
    • Buy no-salt-added or reduced sodium vegetables. Canned foods add salt for flavoring, not the safety of the canning process. Reducing the sodium in your diet benefits your heart health and blood pressure.
  • Dried fruits (on occasion you may see dried vegetables) add pops of color and flavor to a variety of recipes and can most often be stored at room temperature. They are also convenient to eat on-the-go.
    • Find a variety of dried fruits. But remember, with the drying process, we remove water and concentrate (aka. increase) calories. You only need 1/4 cup dried fruit to count as 1 serving of fruit.

Since all forms count towards your daily fruit and veggie needs, include them all throughout each week. This will open up more ways for you to enjoy healthy eating!

Reference: eXtension, Fruits and Vegetables, Fresh, Frozen, and Canned, 2012
Reference: Utah State University Extension, Canned Goods, 2008
Reference: University of Florida Extension, Eating Defensively: The Nutrition and Food Safety Benefits of Cooked Produce, 2013

Recipe Corner

Roasted Dijon Asparagus (Serves 4)

This asparagus recipe was popular at a Kirby's Kitchen class in May 2013. Join us at future classes at Kirby Medical Center in Monticello. To find an upcoming class, look here.

24 fresh asparagus spears
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp Dijon style mustard
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

1. Wash asparagus. Bend each spear until the woody bottom end snaps off naturally. Reserve tops of spears.
2. In a bowl, toss oil with asparagus. Spread into an even layer on an ungreased baking sheet.
3. Bake at 400°F for 5-10 minutes or until spears are slightly brown.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients (vinegar through pepper) except cheese.
5. Remove asparagus from the oven. Serve topped with vinegar mixture and sprinkled with cheese.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 60 calories, 5g fat, 100mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g protein

"Read More" Resources

WEB RESOURCE 1: University of Illinois Extension Nutrition & Health

WEB RESOURCE 2: MyPlate

WEB RESOURCE 3: UI Extension, Watch Your Garden Grow, Asparagus



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