Monday, November 1, 2010

Getting "enough" from fruits and vegetable

Aiming for 5 fruit and vegetable servings is great but what we consume matters.

Let's take an orange for example. It's a delicious fruit and provides vitamin C and fiber, aids in fat digestion and is a great antioxidant. It's only 50-60 calories for a medium orange and takes you at least 3/4 of the way towards meeting your Vitamin C need for the day and has more fiber than most prepackaged bread servings. It's contains about 4 ounces of water so it's very thirst quenching and only 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Now let's say you don't want to peel the orange and you opt for juice. It's faster and works well with your meal. Did you know that 8 ounces of juice is a one serving? Most Americans will drink from a 12 or 16 oz. glass not a little 8 oz. one. If you want 12 or 16 oz., just add water or also have a glass of water flavored as suggested in my earlier post. Drinking from little prepackaged pre-measured containers will show you how much one real serving is. Play along for a moment. Let's say, you don't like veggies much and just went for OJ for your 5 fruits and vegetable servings. Is this a good idea? If you drank 5 glasses of Minute Maid orange juice, you would get the vitamin C, D potassium and calcium you need for the day. That is really terrific and important. But you'd also get nearly half of your daily carbohydrate most of which is in the form of sugar (about 2 tablespoons or one grams worth) and a third of your calorie requirement for the day based on a 2000 calorie diet. I can tell you that most women will gain weight on a 2000 calorie diet. A 1300 - 1500 calorie diet would be more appropriate so now you are drinking almost half of your daily calorie requirements to get the nutrition you wanted from fruits and vegetables.

Now what about when you are out and go to a place like a Jamba Juice franchise for fresh squeezed orange juice ? It's one of the lowest calorie juice items on their menu. You can't purchase one 8 ounce serving from their menu but if you had a twelve ounce serving (just a little more) you would get much of the fiber you need for the day (not in the store bought juice unless you buy it with pulp) and 300% of the vitamin C. But you'd miss the Vitamin D since it is added to store bought orange juice but not necessarily added otherwise. Did you know that 80% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient? We have to fix that if we want to have strong bones and lower the chance of getting many illnesses.

I hope you now realize that even when considering a serving of a single type of fruit - an orange or orange juice and where you buy it can impact your nutritional intake drastically. 

Simple Takeaway 1: Stick to serving sizes. The easiest way to do this is to buy the right size glass or container. Clear plates and glasses are preferred so you can see what you are consuming and many studies show you will eat less. If you don't know how much a serving size is, just look on any container in the supermarket for items you eat commonly. Or go to or

Simple Takeaway 2: An easy rule of thumb is to know that 10% of the daily value on a package for carbohydrates translates to about 2 tablespoons of sugar. 100% of the Daily Value for a 2000 calorie diet is then 20 tablespoons. Take a look at 20 tablespoons of sugar in a glass. Look at it again so you have a picture in your mind.  If you are adding sugar to your coffee or tea, are drinking lots of sugared soda or juice, etc. you won't be able to eat real food with nutrients for you calories. More often than not sugars or carbohydrates that break down in your body to sugar account for much of the carbohydrates in food and you need to watch out so you don't go overboard. Too much sugar is excess energy that the body will store as fat and will cause premature aging if you are past your growing years. Sugar helps all things grow so if you are not growing taller you are growing wider or growing what shouldn't be growing inside you.  Sugar and other carbohydrates are less expensive ingredients to use, tend to increase taste appeal so it will find it's way into many products that you buy. If you don't like that then buy product that you do like, it's election time and remember to vote if you want to find the foods that you like and are good for you.

Simple Takeaway 3: If you slowly decrease the amount of sugar and carbs that you eat, you will easily get used to lower levels and foods you previously thought were not sweet will taste sweeter.  It works. You just have to make a committment to look at what you are eating and take baby steps.

Simple Takeaway 4: Eating less sugar if you are eating too much is being good to yourself. Because we like sugar as children, we have an emotional attachment to it as a reward.  If you eat too much sugar or too much of anything that puts on the pounds you are not being good to yourself, if you are overweight. You want to be good to yourself and do what is in your best interest, don't you? Our emotions are powerful and we need to respect them in ways that benefit rather than harm us. Words to remember.

Simple Takeaway 5: Variety is the spice of life! Always vary your fruits and vegetables as well as the rest of your diet.  Seasonal variation help us do this naturally and cost effectively. There is no perfect set of foods because you need to eat different foods to get all of the nutrition you need. It's all about eating lots of different foods in the right quantities.

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About Me

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First trained as a food chemist and nutritionist, my career began enriching a Twinkie, comparing the nutrition of a Twinkie to an apple and studying the role of sugar in the diet. With an M.B.A. and years in food and pharma understanding consumers and manufacturers, I'm back to where I started - food should taste great and serve to keep us healthy. To do so, there needs to be consumer awareness. Consumers need to vote for what they want by buying what they really want. If they buy impulsively, that's what they will see more of. They need to practice balance and responsible choices. That's when change will come. Please engage me with your conversation so that I can help you make and stick to better food choices that you enjoy. You'll gain a deeper appreciation of food not only from farm to table but farm to health. My vision is to promote solutions for healthful food and food practices you can happily embody and embrace!