Friday, October 12, 2012

Slim Down By Filling Up!

Think you eat enough fruits and vegetables? Grab a pen, and a piece of paper. Take a minute and write down all the fruits and vegetables that you ate yesterday. Looking at that list, do you think you’ve eaten enough? The recommendations are for 1.5 - 2 cups of fruit per day and 2.5 - 3 cups of vegetables per day. Sorry to be a pessimist, but my guess is you didn’t make the cut. In fact, less than 30% of Americans are meeting those recommendations. It’s no wonder that 2/3 of our country is overweight or obese – we’re filling up on easy carbs, junk food, and soda instead of fruits and veggies. Luckily for us, there’s no time like the present to start turning things around.

There are several ways you can help yourself and your family to start eating more fruits and vegetables. One suggestion is to try different methods of preparation. Roasted vegetables are delicious. The high heat causes the starches to caramelize, and this creates a slightly sweet flavor. A favorite example of this is Brussels sprouts. Who first decided that Brussels sprouts should be boiled? That individual gave these delectable little sprouts an undeserved bad reputation because this method of cooking leaves them bitter and mushy. To enjoy roasted sprouts, just take a bag of frozen sprouts, steam them in the microwave for 5 minutes, then toss them with a little olive oil and some kosher salt, and pop them in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, shaking the pan every ten minutes to ensure even browning. Try it and you’ll be surprised! Even the most stubborn of sprout haters have been converted with this method. Other vegetables that take the spotlight when roasted include sweet potatoes, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, and carrots. As we’re coming up on the fall and winter months, the time is ripe to try roasting seasonal vegetables such as winter squash and root vegetables.

Another option for increasing vegetable intake is to be sneaky about it, and add pureed vegetables to dishes that kids (and picky adults) already like. You can easily add steamed and pureed broccoli and cauliflower to pasta sauce when making spaghetti or lasagna. Also, click on this link for my personal favorite macaroni and cheese recipe that’s concealing 20 oz of pureed winter squash. They’ll be smiling because they’re digging into your delicious mac and cheese, and you’ll be smiling because no one has guessed your healthy little secret.

If your kids (or picky adults) have some fruits and veggies that they eat willingly, why not try offering them as a first course before the main meal? By offering a cup of carrots before lunch or a spinach salad before dinner, you can fill up on the really good stuff before delving into the protein and starch components of a meal. After all, when presented with a plate of meatloaf, baked potato, and broccoli, who eats the broccoli first? No one I know. Dr. Barbara Rolls of Penn State University has done some exciting research in this area. Her studies show that offering vegetables to children before a meal is an effective strategy for increasing intake. Not only did the children in her study eat the veggies offered to them before lunch, but they also ate the vegetable that was included with the main meal, leading to a significant increase in vegetable consumption.1 The bottom line is, if you serve a fruit or vegetable first, hungry people will eat it – adults and kids alike.

There you have it: three easy ways to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Not only will you look and feel better, but by taking in so many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, you are protecting yourself against cancer, slowing down the aging process, and improving the health of your eyes and skin. All these benefits while keeping your waistline trim – it’s a win-win situation! Give yourself a big pat on the back, because you’re about to slim down by filling up.

Danielle Masland
Danielle is a Penn State Dietetic Intern with Penn State Extension in Adams County.

Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce.

1. Spill MK, Birch LL, Roe LS, Rolls BJ. Eating vegetables first: the use of portion size to increase vegetable intake in pre-school children. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [serial online]. 2010; 91: 1237 – 1243. Available at: =2e1722e9-1358-4ab6-a344-8c1fef834da5. Accessed September 12, 2012.

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