For a long time I’ve watched what people were eating or what foods they had in their carts and thought “don’t they know how bad that is?”. Now let me step down from my high horse for a moment, there are times I eat junk (and sometimes a lot of it) but the answer to that question is “yes”. I know how bad it is, and I usually feel terrible (literally and figuratively) after eating it. What I’ve come to learn is that the majority of those people that I’ve silently been critiquing (sounds so much nicer than judging) genuinely don’t know how bad their food choices actually are. 

Let me be the first to say I am sorry. I’m sorry for criticizing you in my mind and I’m sorry that none of us have been properly educated on food and nutrition unless of course you’ve gone out of your way (and trust me I know it is way out of the way) to learn more. And you probably grew up in a house where healthy eating wasn’t a priority. Not because your parents didn’t care but because they didn’t know better either! No wonder we’ve become a nation of yo-yo dieters, it’s the only way we know! Whether it be January, nearing swimsuit season or impending nuptials we’ve all felt the pressure to get healthy. And when that time strikes your brain automatically goes to its files of things you’ve heard and neatly put away. If it were 1994 your file would have taken you to the Atkins Diet (cheers for bacon lovers). In 1996 you would have decided you needed to eat right for your blood type (I keep meaning to figure out what mine is!). Let’s fast forward: 2003 ah the South Beach diet, I mean you could even buy a slow cooker to cook all of your south beachy foods. Side note: I’ve had my most expensive meal and one of my best meals ever in south beach. Those were unfortunately two separate meals. Skip ahead to today and you probably either want to eat like a caveman or you’re so overwhelmed with mixed messages and the no fat, all natural, healthy label marketing scheme you don’t know what to eat or why you should eat it.   

Here’s the good news: we’ve made it much harder than it actually is. The bad news: you most likely have some sort of food addiction or dependency. The ugly: you’re going to have to put in work, even if it is “simple”.  The thing is, improper nutrition isn’t just causing obesity; in fact, you may be super skinny and just downright unhealthy. Here’s a short list of what improper nutrition can cause:

Fatigue

Headaches

Behavioral issues 

Anxiety

Depression

Lower core strength 

Slower problem solving abilities

Slower muscle response time

Lack of alertness 

High blood pressure

High cholesterol 

Heart disease 

Diabetes

Stroke

Gout

Cancer (yes, cancer)

Now that I’ve got your attention. 

Fruits and vegetables, let’s begin. 

You need to eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a DAY. Ouch, right? And, while that may seem like a lot of fruit and veggies it’s not as hard as it seems. It’s just different than what you’re used to. Fruit and vegetables make up one of the four basic food groups. Basic! Fruits and vegetables should be a BASIC part of your diet. BASICally we aren’t eating enough (or any) of what should be a foundation of our diets. Here’s a short list of what you’re missing out on:

Vitamin C, A, E, B2, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, folic acid, biotin, calcium, potassium, sodium, and copper. Fruit and vegetables can also contain fibre, carbohydrates, and some are also good sources of protein.

See ya later, flinstone vitamins. 

I get it, you’ve been programmed your entire life to make vegetables out to be the villain and fruit out to be a flavor you like to taste in your ice cream. I don’t know your reasoning for not eating enough fruits and vegetables (and if you’re going to give me the  ‘they’re too expensive’ routine refer back to this). The thing is, I don’t care what your reason was. It’s time to put on your big boy/girl pants and eat your fruits and veggies. 

To get your 5 servings, or more, you need to try to include a fruit or vegetable at each meal and for at least one snack during the day. Here are a few points to think about: 

  • Fruits and vegetables come in a wide variety of colours – green, yellow, orange, red, and a few shades in between. Some of these colours contain certain nutrients and other healthy ingredients that other colours don’t. So a mixture is important!
  • When it comes to shopping, the main thing is to plan ahead. Plan what kinds of fruit and vegetables you need to buy each week. Fresh, frozen or canned, all of these kinds are fine. But with canned fruit (and some veggies), be aware of added sugar or other unhealthy additives or ingredients. Read the label – if you see sugar listed there, then put it back on the shelf and find one without added sugar.
  • You should know the way vegetables are prepared – for example, whether they are eaten raw or cooked – can change how nutritious they are. When cooking vegetables, it is best if they are lightly steamed. They should be softened, but still “crunchy” or “crisp”. Boil vegetables in a small amount of water for a short amount of time as an alternative. Eating your veggies raw is always great!
  • Fruit is great as part of a meal, or for dessert or a snack, because it needs little, if any, preparation (except maybe washing or peeling). Fruit is great for “on the go”.
  • Go easy on the added stuff – people do all kinds of things to their veggies like loading up on salad dressings, mayonnaise, salt, butter, cheese sauce, dips, or gravy. These added foods can often add a lot of “empty calories”. Instead, try some new recipes or ways of preparing your veggies that don’t involve adding a lot of sugar, fat, or salt. Try eating your fruit and veggies in their most basic form – raw or lightly steamed. Experiment with adding herbs and spices or lemon juice or vinegar or don’t put anything on them – just enjoy the delicious, natural taste. 

• About fruit juice – orange, apple, grape, grapefruit – a small cup or glass of these juices can be considered a serving of fruit. But you have to make sure you are drinking 100% juice and not just a fruit-flavoured drink. These kinds of drinks are usually nothing more than sugar and flavouring – either artificial or natural. They may contain a small amount of actual fruit juice, but they are often mostly water with added sugar. Look for the words “unsweetened” or “no sugar added” on the juice container. Even though juice can be considered a serving of fruit, limit your juice drinking to one small glass a day. The reason for this is that fruit juice does not contain any natural fibre, unlike actual pieces of fruit, which are healthier choices.

In the lists below, you will see fruits and vegetables that are considered to be good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, iron, calcium and fibre. In no particular order: 

FRUIT 

Sources of Vitamin A: Cantaloupe, Papaya, Guava, Mango, Prunes, Watermelon, Grapefruit, Persimmon, Tangerines, Apricots. 

Sources of Vitamin C: Cantaloupe, Mango, Oranges, Grapefruit, Strawberries, Papaya, Honeydew Melon, Watermelon, Guava, Kiwi, Grapes. 

Sources of Potassium: Papaya, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Fried Apricots, Cantaloupe, Honeydew Melon, Banana, Dried Currents, Pomegranate, Apricots, Apples. 

Sources of Folic Acid: Papaya, Oranges, Cantaloupe, Pear, Strawberries, Raspberries, Tangerines, Banana, Avocado, Apricots. 

Sources of Fibre: Raspberries, Apple, Pear, Banana, Peach, Cherries, Oranges, Dried Figs (or Apricots or Prunes), Guava, Kiwi. 

The Top Five Fruits (based on the above lists): Cantaloupe, Strawberries, Guava, Papaya, Honeydew Melon. 

VEGETABLES 

Sources of Vitamin A: Collard greens, Spinach, Sweet Potato, Kale, Swiss Chard, Carrots, Sweet Red Pepper, Pumpkin, Romaine Lettuce, Squash. 

Sources of Vitamin C: Sweet Red Pepper, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Sweet Potato, Kale, Baked Potatoes (with skin), Cauliflower, Swiss Chard, Cabbage, Green Pepper. 

Sources of Potassium: Baked Potato (with skin), Boston/Leaf Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Callard Greens, Tomato, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Spinach, Potato without skin, Mushrooms. 

Sources of Folic Acid: Spinach, Asparagus, Romaine Lettuce, Collard Greens, Brussel Sprouts, Corn, Broccoli, Cauliflower, parsnip, Baked Potato (with skin). 

Sources of Iron: Spinach, Swiss Chard, Pumpkin, Baked Potato (with skin), Snow Peas, Beets, Mushrooms, Collard Greens, Green Beans, Sweet Potato. 

Sources of Calcium: Collard Greens, Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard, Okra, Snow Peas, Rutabaga, Sweet Potato, Broccoli, Pumpkin. 

Sources of Fibre: Baked Potato (with skin), Green Peas, Sweet Potato, Collard Greens, Pumpkin, Carrots, Corn, Broccoli, Artichoke, Squash. 

The Top 5 Vegetables (based on the above lists): Broccoli, Sweet Potato, Spinach, Collard Greens, Swiss Chard. 

Here are a few possibilities to show you how you can get more fruits and veggies from these lists into your daily eating. Remember that you want a total of at least 5 servings for the day: 

Breakfast 

  • 4 oz. Orange Juice – 1 serving
  • 1⁄2-1 cup of fresh fruit(you can even add it to your cereal)–1 serving. Lunch 
  • 1 piece of fruit with lunch (as dessert) – your choice – 1 serving
  • 1-2 cups of sliced carrots, celery, cucumber, or some other type of raw vegetable – 1 serving.
  • Add a good sized helping of lettuce, tomato, or some other sliced vegetable to your favourite sandwich – 1 serving.
  • 1 bowl of vegetable soup – 1⁄2 serving.
  • Snack – have a second piece of fruit for a mid-afternoon or after school snack – 1 serving.

Dinner Examples (there are endless combinations here) 

  • 1 baked potato (eating the skin is more nutritious) with 1 cup of steamed vegetables of your choice – 2 servings.
  • Pizza loaded with veggies (approx. 1 serving depending on the number of veggies on it and how many pieces you eat).
  • Pasta with chunks of vegetables in a tomato-based sauce – approx. 1 serving. A few other suggestions… 
  • Try mixing fruit into your yogurt or having it on top of breakfast cereal.
  • Make a fruit “smoothie” from fruit, ice and milk in the blender. No, you don’t need to buy any fancy smoothie or shake mix!
  • Combine vegetables into other dishes or recipes like soups, casseroles or other “one-dish” meals where the flavour of the veggies tend to blend into the overall taste of the dish – chili, macaroni and cheese, tuna casserole, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, stew, soup, or pizza. In this case, you may not even know you’re eating them.
  • Virtually all fruits and veggies make healthy choices as snacks or part of meals except for things like avocado, sweetened fruit juice and French fries, which should be chosen only once in a while.
  • Remember that preparation is very important – avoid added sugar, salt, and fat as much as possible.
  • Avoid frying, deep frying or boiling. Steaming is best.
  • Dried beans, peas, lentils, are vegetables that re good protein sources, especially when combined with a whole grain. These can be consumed as part of another dish such as chili, spaghetti sauce or bean salad.

Stay posted for recipes to come!

Sweat & Smiles,

Melissa

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