By Melissa Tennen, Health AtoZ writer
Yes, you read correctly. An easy way to think about getting your fruits and veggies is by their colors. Divide fruits and vegetables into five groups: red, white, green, yellow/orange and blue/purple. Get at least one food from each group every day and get a variety.
"Instead of going to the grocery store and trying to think of foods with vitamin C and lycopene, you can get foods according to color," says Christine Filardo, a registered dietitian for the Produce for Better Health Foundation, a non-profit organization that encourages people to eat healthier foods.
Your red group might include red peppers, tomatoes and apples. The blue-purple group has blueberries and eggplant. "Every fruit and vegetable has a unique footprint. They have a unique set of nutrients, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. And the best way to get all that is to eat a variety of color," she says.
NATURE'S COLOR CHEMISTRY
Phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their colors. Phytochemicals are the disease-fighting substances only found in plant-based foods - fruits and vegetables. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help lower the risk for certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and eye diseases. Fruits and vegetables are also rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. These all work together to help your body be strong.
About three-fourths of Americans don't get the minimum of five servings a day of fruits and veggies. Instead they are eating too many high-fat, high-calorie foods such as meat and sweets. Foods like french fries don't count because they are high in fat and calories after they are fried.
FIVE IS MINIMUM
- Most people need more than five servings a day.
- Children 2 to 6 years old should get three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit.
- Children older than 6, teenage girls, active women and most men should get four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit.
- Teenage boys and active men should get five servings of vegetables and four servings of fruits.
- Because fruits and vegetables tend to be filling and low in calories, they can be a good way to help you manage your weight.
THE COLOR GROUPS INCLUDE:
- Leafy greens, lettuce, green pepper, broccoli, green beans, peas, green cabbage, green apples, green grapes, honeydew, asparagus, artichoke, brussels sprouts, celery, okra, zucchini and kiwifruit.
- Carrots, yellow apples, apricots, yellow figs, sweet corn, tangerines, pumpkin, pineapple, sweet potatoes, butternut and winter squash, cantaloupe, oranges, lemons, nectarines, peaches, mangoes and papayas.
- Tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, red peppers, red onions, red kidney beans, red lentils, red apples, red grapes, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, raspberries, pink or red grapefruit, strawberries and cranberries.
- Eggplant, purple grapes, plums, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, purple figs, dried plums and black currants.
- Cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, garlic, parsnips, ginger, dates, shallots, turnips, white peaches, white nectarines, white potatoes, bananas and pears.
Christine Filardo says, "Make your changes in small steps. When you think about it, it's not that tough to do, Fruit is the ultimate fast food."
Here are tips from the Produce for Better Health Foundation:
- Keep a bagged salad in the fridge for when you are craving a snack.
- Put dried fruit and fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. They are in easy reach when you get a case of the munchies.
- Buy the bag of peeled baby carrots, the plastic container of cut-up cantaloupe or the diced mushrooms. These are all time saver steps.
- Keep a bag of frozen vegetables in your fridge to throw into soups or salads. They are handy for a quick stir-fry using a touch of olive oil.
- Get some dip or salad dressing for carrots, celery and broccoli.
- Use fruit in your salads.
- Add saute'ed vegetables to rice or grain dishes