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March is National Nutrition Month, which is sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They have made it their mission to help people to make informed decisions about food as well as to make healthy eating and physical activity a part of daily life.
So, what is the best thing you can do to improve overall nutrition?
Eat more fruits and veggies! Data from the CDC shows that only about 13.1 percent of adults in the U.S. eat the daily recommendation of fruits and only 8.9 percent of adults eat the daily recommendation of vegetables. The average adult should consume between 5 to 9 fruits and vegetables every day, but instead most only consume about 1 fruit and 1 to 2 vegetables.
There are many ways that you can include fruits and vegetables in your diet other than eating salads during every meal.
- Make fruits and vegetables accessible- leave your fruits and vegetables in places where you will see them a lot (both in your refrigerator and on your countertop). If you see healthy options, you will be more likely to reach for them when you are hungry.
- Swap it out- instead of chips and salsa, try veggies and dip. Carrots, broccoli, and celery make great dippers.
- Create new dips- get inspired to create your own dips with your favorite ingredients, herbs, and spices to enjoy your fruits and vegetables more.
- Make smoothies- this is a great way to use up fruits and vegetables. They taste delicious and don’t take a long time to prepare!
- Puree vegetables- spinach and carrots are good examples of vegetables that can be pureed and added to other foods for added nutrition, such as sauces and soups.
- Add fruit to yogurt or cereal- if you already eat yogurt or cereal, you can easily top it with your favorite fruit to get another serving.
- Start a garden or visit a local farmer’s market- it’s very satisfying to know where your fruits and vegetables are coming from and that they are fresh, which may promote a higher intake
It’s important to keep in mind that not all fruits and vegetables are created equally. Fruits that are brighter and vegetables that are darker in color will provide more nutrients. It’s also important to vary the fruits and vegetables that you eat because they each provide different nutrients that are all vital to the body. National Nutrition Month encourages you to find new ways to love fruits and vegetables.
Cooperative Extension professionals offer great programs on various nutrition topics. Click here to see the choices http://s3.amazonaws.com/udextension/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/13113215/Nutrition-and-Food-Safety.pdf Contact your local Extension office to schedule a program.