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Focus on more fruits and vegetables

As we move through March, National Nutrition Month, “Savor the Flavor” (this year’s theme) by serving more fruits and vegetables in your meals.  If you aren’t sure how to combine good taste and nutrition, start with MyPlate as a guide. For each meal, make half your plate fruits and vegetables.  Put a variety of color on your plate at each meal; think red, orange and dark green vegetables all are nutrient rich.     

Fruit and vegetables can be a part of any meal during the day and make the best choice for snacks.   They are low in calories and contribute much needed nutrients such as vitamin A and C, antioxidants and fiber.  Children need to eat 1 ½ cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables each day.  Adults need to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ - 3 cups of vegetables each day.  Make a habit of serving both food groups throughout the day.

If you are at a loss for serving ideas, here are some tips from USDA’s MyPlate and Fruit and Veggies More Matters, a campaign designed to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables:


Stir low-fat or fat-free granola into a bowl of yogurt.  Top with sliced apples or berries.

Add strawberries, blueberries or bananas to your waffles, pancakes, cereal, oatmeal or toast.

Top toasted whole-grain bread with peanut butter and sliced bananas.

Add vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms or tomatoes to scrambled eggs.

Canned, dried and frozen fruits and vegetables are also good options. Look for fruit without added sugar or syrups and vegetables without added salt, butter or cream sauces.

Lunch and Dinner

Place a box of raisins in your child’s backpack and pack one for yourself.

Ask for more vegetable toppings (like mushrooms, peppers and onions) and less cheese on a pizza.

Add some cooked dry beans to your salad.  Or, for a sweeter taste, add chopped apples, pears or raisins.

Eat soup more often.  You can stick with the basics like tomato or vegetable soup or make a recipe of minestrone or veggies chili.

Add lettuce or spinach, tomato, onion and cucumber to sandwiches.

Order salads, vegetable soups or stir-fried vegetables when eating out.

Instead of fries with your hamburger, order a side salad.


Eat fruit as a mid-morning snack.  It is easy to carry an apple or banana to work.

Snack on vegetables like bell pepper strips and broccoli with a low-fat or fat-free ranch dip.

Try baked tortilla chips with black beans and  salsa.

Have a bag of dried fruit at your desk for a convenient snack

Keep a bowl of fruit on your desk or counter.

Drink a fruit smoothie made with whole fruit, ice cubes and low-fat or fat-free yogurt.

Top a cup of fat-free or low-fat yogurt with sliced fresh fruit.

For quick and easy snacks, stock up on fresh, dried, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables.

Pick up ready-packed salad greens from the produce shelf for a quick salad any time.

Encourage your child to choose his or her own fruit when shopping.

You can come up with your own ideas too, but start a new habit this month by making half your plate fruit and vegetables.

The University of Florida IFAS/Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

-Diann Douglas

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