Find ways to get your 'five a day'

July 31, 2002|by LYNN F. LITTLE

An apple a day keeps the doctor away!

Fruits and vegetables have long been known to provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Although their nutrient contents vary, most fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins A and C. Some also provide significant amounts of folic acid, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, magnesium and selenium.

These nutrients are all important for the normal, everyday functioning of the human body and they may help lower the risk for some cancers, heart disease and other chronic health problems.

It was recently discovered that most fruits and vegetables contain various phytochemicals. We have much to learn about the roles different phytochemicals play in the body, but many are thought to help prevent cancer and heart disease.


Because fruits and vegetables are so nutritious, the general consensus among nutrition experts is that healthy people 2 years old and older should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

The food guide pyramid recommends eating three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruits daily. Consuming at least the minimum number of servings for both adds up to "five a day."

  • Wake up to fruit. Make a habit of drinking juice, or complementing cereal, yogurt or pancakes with naturally sweet sliced or dried fruit.

  • Try some "grate" ways. Add grated, shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach and carrots to lasagna, meatloaf, mashed potatoes or meat, poultry, pasta and grain dishes.

  • Be saucy with fruit. Pure berries, apples, peaches or pears for a thick, sweet sauce on grilled or broiled seafood or poultry.

  • Get creative with pizza. Order or make it deluxe with vegetable toppings.

  • Drink juice as a snack. Try a variety of juices: grapefruit, apple, cranberry, orange, grape, papaya, tomato and mango.

  • Bake with fruits and vegetables. Use pured fruit such as applesauce, prunes, bananas or peaches in place of about half the fat in recipes for homemade breads, muffins, pancakes, cookies and other baked goods. For flavor, texture and nutrients, blend in shredded zucchini, carrots or dried fruits.

  • Sandwich in fruits and vegetables. Add pizzazz to sandwiches by including sliced pineapple, apples, peppers, cucumbers, sprouts and tomato as fillings.

  • Take a fruit to lunch. Make a habit of tucking an apple, tangerine, grapes, cherries, dried fruits or other fruit into your briefcase or lunch bag.

  • Stuff an omelet with veggies. Turn your omelet into a hearty meal with crisp, tasty vegetables like broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes or onions.

  • Toss up a vegetable salad. Add extra cut-up vegetables, legumes and fruits to salads.

  • Stock your fridge with raw vegetables and fruits - nature's fast food - cleaned, fresh and ready to eat.

If you would like more information on eating "Five-A-Day," send a self-addressed, stamped (37 cents) business envelope to Maryland Cooperative Extension - Washington County Office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713. Mark the envelope "Five."

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

The Herald-Mail Articles