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Lynn Little: A cure-all food? Well, nearly

September 16, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE / Special to The Herald-Mail

Imagine there was a breakthrough class of food additives praised by reputable researchers. Studies showed that eating a diet rich in these foods might reduce the risk for heart disease, some cancers and other chronic health problems. They were also low in fat and calories. And their high water and fiber content added volume to dishes and made them more filling.

Such an amazing health food exists: We call them fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and fiber essential for the normal, daily functioning of the human body. Using fruits and vegetables instead of higher-calorie ingredients in your favorite dishes can lower the calorie content.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some simple suggestions for cutting calories by eating fruits and vegetables instead of more calorie-dense foods.

Breakfast

Substitute green peppers, onions or mushrooms for one of the eggs or half the cheese in your omelet. The vegetables will add volume and flavor to the dish with fewer calories than the egg or cheese.

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Cut back on the amount of cereal in your bowl to make room for sliced bananas, fresh peaches or strawberries. The benefits: Same size serving with fewer calories and more flavors.

Lunch

Substitute vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, grated carrots or onions for half to three-fourths of the meat and cheese in your sandwich, wrap or burrito. The new version will still fill you up but with fewer calories than the original.

Choose a vegetable-based soup rather than a meat or noodle-based one. If you're making your own soup, add twice the chopped vegetables called for and half the meat or noodles. The vegetables will help fill you up, so you won't miss those extra calories.

Accompany your sandwich with carrot sticks, an apple or an orange instead of chips or cookies.

Dinner

Add 1 cup chopped vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, squash or peppers while removing 1 cup of the rice or pasta in your favorite main dish. The dish with the vegetables will be just as satisfying but have fewer calories than the original version.

Take a good look at your dinner plate. Vegetables, fruit and whole grains should take up half your plate. If they don't, replace some of the meat, cheese, white pasta or rice with legumes, steamed broccoli, asparagus, greens or another favorite vegetable. This will reduce the total calories in your meal without reducing the amount of food you eat.

Snacks

Instead of a high-calorie snack from a vending machine, bring cut-up vegetables or fruit from home. One snack-sized bag of corn chips (1 ounce) has the same number of calories as a small apple, 1 cup of whole strawberries, and 1 cup of carrots with a quarter-cup of low-calorie dip.

Fruits and vegetables make wonderful, low-calorie snacks that are still filling. For example, a medium-size apple; a medium-size banana; or 1 cup of carrots sticks, broccoli florets or bell pepper strips with 2 tablespoons of hummus each contains 100 calories or less.

Go to www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/fruitsvegetables or www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org for ideas to help you increase the fruits and vegetables in your healthy diet.

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

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