June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, when farm markets are open and filling up with fresh produce. The American Heart Association (AHA) is encouraging Americans to add color to their meals throughout the month as part of their Healthy For Good movement. The movement is designed to inspire lasting change through small, simple steps in four key areas: Eat smart. Add color. Move more. Be well.
The American Heart Association recommends four servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables each day. The AHA’s goal is to inspire and teach Americans how to add color to every meal and snack, because adding even one serving of color in the form of fruits and vegetables each day can help to build a healthier lifestyle.
Fruits and vegetables in all colors and forms-fresh, frozen, canned and dried—count toward the daily servings. Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables is directly linked to longer, healthier life, according to the AHA. It can reduce the risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, multiple forms of cancer and conditions like diabetes and hypertension which are linked to lower quality of life.
This June, and all year long, the AHA encourages healthier eating and adding color to daily meals and snacks.
The American Heart Association recommends four servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables each day—about 4½ cups total. The average American adult eats about 1 to 1½ cups of each daily. Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption alone can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20 percent. Just 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily could reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If Americans ate just one more serving of fruits or vegetables per day, this would save more than 30,000 lives and $5 billion in medical costs each year, according to the AHA.
Summer brings an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables to grocery stores, farmers markets and local gardens. That means more opportunities to add tasty and heart-healthy foods to your everyday meals. Strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe and other seasonal produce taste good and help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
About one-in-three American kids and teens are overweight or obese, which can lead to a broad range of health problems. You can help your child develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits by incorporating more fruits and veggies to their everyday diet.
Here are tips to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your diet, and help you and your family get on the right path to good health.
Keep it colorful.
Challenge yourself to try fruits and vegetables of different colors. Make it a red/green/orange day (apple, lettuce, carrot), or try for a rainbow of fruits and vegetables during the week.
Add it on.
Add fruit and vegetables to foods kids love. Try adding frozen peas to mac’n’cheese, veggies on top of pizza and slices of fruit on top of breakfast cereals or low-fat ice cream.
Mix them up.
Add fruits and vegetables to food that’s cooked or baked, or mix vegetables in with pasta sauces, lasagnas, casseroles, soups and omelets. Mixing fresh berries into pancakes, waffles or muffins is one example to make fruit part of breakfast.
Use healthier cooking methods.
Steaming, grilling, sautéing, roasting, baking and microwaving vegetables are ideal preparation methods. Use fats and oils low in saturated fats sparingly; don’t use trans fats.
Enjoy vegetable dippers.
Chop raw vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower and celery are perfect with a low-fat or fat-free dressings. Dip tip: Read the food label of sauces and dressings to make sure they are not overloaded with saturated fat and salt.
Smoothies are a great way to increase the amount of fruit you eat and they’re easy to make. A basic smoothie is just frozen fruit, some low-fat or non-fat milk and/or yogurt, and 100 percent fruit juice all processed together in a blender until smooth.
Try fruit pops.
Put 100 percent fruit juice and fresh berries in an ice tray and freeze it overnight. You can eat the fruit cubes as mini-popsicles or put them in other juices. Frozen seedless grapes make natural mini-popsicles and are a great summer treat.
Visit www.heart.org for more tips and resources.
Jessica DiMeo is the senior regional director of communications for the Long Island chapter of the American Heart Association.