Busy lives don't have to lead to unhealthy food choices

February 25, 2004|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Who has time to think about what they're eating? Everyone - according to the National Cancer Institute, especially with the variety of convenient fruit and vegetable choices on the market today.

As more families feel time constraints from jobs, family and other commitments, a healthful diet is easy to overlook. In our hurried days, we don't always make the best food choices. However, it is possible to meet the demands of our busy lives and still make healthful food choices.

Did you know that eating five fruits and vegetables a day is important to help you maintain your health? Along with tasting great, fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables as part of a low-fat, high-fiber diet may help reduce cancer risk.

Here are some ways to help you and your family:

  • Get five-a-day.

    Have fruits and veggies on hand. It's hard to choose grapes over cookies for a snack if they aren't around. Studies show that households that have fruits and vegetables available for meals and snacks will eat more of them.

  • Commuting five-a-day.

    Drink fruit juice instead of soda or coffee in the car. You can keep 8- to 12-ounce cans or bottles in your refrigerator, chilled and ready to go. Or, you can buy them at gas stations and fast food chains. Bring with you fruits and vegetables that are in the can or can be eaten by hand. Try these convenience foods - apricots, grapes, apples, nectarines, bananas, orange segments, broccoli, pears, carrots, plums, celery stalks, strawberries, cherries.

  • Shopping for five-a-day.

    Take advantage of easy options such as pre-cut, cleaned and packaged fresh fruit and vegetables. Frozen, diced or canned fruits and vegetables are also easy to use.

  • Buy low-fat yogurt, fruit juice and fresh, canned or frozen fruit to blend a quick smoothie in the morning. Drink it at home - or pour it into an insulated cup to keep it cold and take it with you.

    Buy pre-cut vegetables (packaged or from the salad bar) for brown bag lunches and try dipping in low-fat salad dressing.

    Buy frozen bags of berries, peaches or melon balls and use as needed.

    What is a serving?

    A serving is smaller than many people think. One serving is:

    • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice.

    • 1/2 cup cooked or canned vegetables or fruit.

    • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables.

    • 1/2 cup dried beans or peas.

    • 1/4 cup dried fruit.

    Remember, five servings of fruits and vegetables each day is the minimum - the more the better.

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

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