I spent last week in Manhattan for a week of agent training. One amazing fact I heard from current research is that 92 percent of Kansans don’t eat the recommended amount of vegetables each day, and 90 percent don’t eat enough fruit. Wow. If eating fruits and vegetables was a test, we would be flunking.
But it doesn’t have to be so hard. The specific amount of fruits and vegetables you need to eat depends on your age, sex and level of physical activity, but an average is 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables each day for adults (women generally need the lower amounts; men the higher amounts.)
September is Fruit and Vegetable Month, a good time to be intentional about eating plenty of these healthful foods. Just remember these two simple things which can make it easier to get the servings of fruits and vegetables you need every day: 1) fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at every eating occasion, including snacks; and 2) all forms (fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent juice) count toward your daily intake.
Plan to join me at 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Hays Public Library gallery for a free program on “Fruits and Vegetables — More Matters!” I will share ways to enjoy more fruits and vegetables, along with fruit and veggie recipes for each season of the year. Learn why it is delicious, nutritious and fun to choose more fruits and vegetables in your daily meals and snacks while contributing to a longer, healthier life. Please RSVP to the Library at (785) 625-9014 to ensure adequate supplies.
With more than 200 different varieties of fruits and vegetables and a variety of convenient packaging to make them easy to store and serve, there’s bound to be something to please everyone. Consider these tips:
• Most frozen and canned foods are processed within hours of harvest, so their flavor and nutritional value are preserved.
• Studies show recipes prepared with canned foods had similar nutritional values to those prepared with fresh or frozen ingredients.
• Canned foods are "cooked" prior to packaging, so they are recipe-ready.
• Frozen foods also require little preparation — washing and slicing, for instance, is already done.
So, are you ready to eat more fruits and veggies? In “Top 10 countdown” style, here are the top 10 reasons to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables each day:
10. Color and texture. Fruits and veggies add color, texture — and appeal — to your plate.
9. Convenience. Fruits and veggies are nutritious in any form, so they’re ready when you are.
8. Fiber. Fruits and veggies provide fiber that helps fill you up and keeps your digestive system happy.
7. Low in calories. Fruits and veggies are naturally low in calories.
6. Might reduce disease risk. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies might help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.
5. Vitamins and minerals. Fruits and veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals that help you feel healthy and energized.
4. Variety. Fruits and veggies are available in an almost infinite variety so there’s always something new to try.
3. Quick, natural snack. Fruits and veggies are nature’s treat and easy to grab for a snack.
2. Fun to eat. Some crunch, some squirt, some you peel, some you don’t and some grow right in your own backyard.
1. Fruits and veggies are nutritious and delicious!
Especially now, during Fruit and Vegetable Month in September, don’t be a statistic. Make an effort to increase your intake of fruits and veggies — because more matters.
Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.