OK, no groaning. I know you think that simply agreeing to incorporate fruits and vegetables in your diet is just too boring ...and too easy....and it cannot possibly have a big impact on weight loss. Well let's take each of those comments, one at a time.
Let's first look at why fruits and vegetables are so important. Clearly produce is bursting with vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are also bursting with fiber. That means that when you eat produce, you get full and satisfied rather quickly and you also have a somewhat more gentle ebb and flow of blood sugar. Fruits and vegetables also contain phytonutrients (phytochemicals), which are active compounds that supply health benefits. Those health benefits can impact eye, heart, bone, brain health and also help to protect and strengthen immunity. You know some phytonutrients by another name-antioxidants-but the health benefits of phytonutrients go beyond just antioxidant activity. Think lutein and eye health (prevents macular degeneration), lycopene and prostate health, resveratrol and heart health. When you make the effort to include fruits and vegetables in your diet, you are embracing a health goal. And sometimes it's a "do" rather than a "don't" that can help you to lose weight. Here's how:
For every serving of fruit or vegetable you include in your diet, you can easily swap out a processed food or snack that is high in salt, processed sugar, unhealthy fats and calories. Substituting these tasty, lower calorie foods is a great way to initiate weight loss without deprivation. The key is (a) to really try and eat a variety of colors so you don't get bored and (b) target a variety of colors so you get the benefits of a broad range of vitamins, minerals and indeed phytonutrients. The very colors of produce are a direct result of their specific phytonutrients. The biggest mistake is that people typically just grab an apple or a pear or iceberg lettuce and tomato slices. You do need to add some creativity when you commit to eating produce. Use vegetable broth and then experiment with different vegetables to create a great soup. Add vegetables to tomato sauce, stews and casseroles. Use pureed fruit to moisten healthy muffin recipes and cut fat. Make baked apples filled with cinnamon, raisins and currants. Use a melon half as your "dish" and fill it with fat free yogurt or cottage cheese, berries, nuts and high fiber cereal. Commit to always adding vegetables to an omelet and use leftover vegetables from last night's dinner in your lunch wrap. Skewer fruit and then add a dipping sauce like melted dark chocolate for a decadent treat. The idea is to include a fruit and/or snack at every meal and snack as you start to drop more processed food items from your diet. You'll lose weight and gain some truly beneficial health benefits. Think of it as a "daily dose of color" in every meal!!
Why not start tracking your intake of fruits and vegetables. If you think about the plant kingdom in terms of color categories, then try to eat 2 servings daily from each of the 5 main color categories-green, red, white, blue-purple, orange-yellow. That way you will ultimately end up with a broad spectrum of color and nutrients in your diet and you will probably discover a bunch of new produce choices. Most supermarkets love to showcase the fruits that are in season and will typically let you taste test before you buy - why not make the experience a family affair. Just remember that not every new taste experience is love at first sight-sometimes it can take 12, 14 even 21 taste tests in order to really begin to like a new flavor. Also remember that though fresh produce is often recommended as best, frozen and even canned options can also help you to meet your daily goal of color. Just be careful to buy canned fruit choices that don't have heavy syrup or added sugar and if you buy canned vegetables or beans, rinse off the salted liquid.
Published On: October 19, 2009