Color me Healthy!

March is National Nutrition Month (NNM). While we need to be nutri-aware all twelve months of the year, this month hands us a magnifying glass to bring everything into focus. For all encompassing purposes, I want to claim NNM the first month of your new nutrition year, making March 1st Nutrition New Years Day! (Happy belated nutrition new years day!) As we all literally or mentally scribbled down our New Years resolutions on January 1st, we also have a resolution for NNM. Good thing I can’t hear what you’re saying as you read this post because I’m sure that there were plenty of “Ugh, more resolutions? I can barely keep the original ones.” Well, before you jump ship there is something you should know, the American Dietetics Association has already come up with the resolution for you (drum roll please)… “Eat Right with Color.” So look, the hardest part is over and the resolution is out there for everyone to know, but how do we do it? First, let’s interpret it. Just as peacocks fan out their beautiful feathers to attract their mates, whole fruits and vegetables wear their colors proudly as indicators of their nutrient density. Thankfully, fruits and vegetable are peacocking all of time, not just when they want you to eat them! Each color specifically represents different vitamins and minerals they contain; the list of all of the color associations could literally stretch from New York to California so here is a great cheat sheet of the most common ones.

Food-Color Chart

Now that you have the information, let’s figure out what to do with it. Some people can’t get enough of fruits and vegetables; it’s like candy from the earth! But those people aren’t a dime a dozen and were probably the only 4 year old who begged for more brussles sprouts, opposed to the majority of people who are now thinking that those Firecracker® popsicles are pretty colorful which means you can start eating more of those (this just in… those unfortunately don’t count). Not only has the USDA and HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) told us to increase our fruits and vegetables in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, but now the ADA is also telling us we have to broaden our horizons. The easiest way to increase your fruit and veggie intake is by adding them in small quantities to each meal. Most individuals don’t buy fresh produce that often in fear of them spoiling, but I’m going to let you in on a secret, if you eat them they won’t spoil! But be realistic; don’t buy a pound of green beans for just you (especially if you hate green beans). It’s always a great idea to buy the loose produce opposed to the pre-packaged versions so you are able to control the quantity.  The complaint associated with the cost of produce (especially if they rot) is usually what follows, and the answer to that is even simpler, buy frozen! Not only does it last longer but you can buy them in larger quantities and not use it all at one time. Lastly, I don’t usually promote canned vegetables due to the mounds of salt and unidentifiable preservatives, but if you drain and rinse them well before use I am not entirely opposed. After buying the fruits and vegetables, the next step would be integrating them into your meals, since it is recommended to eat anywhere between 5 and 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Some easy ways to accomplish this are—starting at least one meal with a small salad, choose an apple (or apple slices) for a snack instead of a bag of chips, throw in a handful of mixed greens onto your sandwich or wrap, and trade in your chocolaty dessert for mixed berries. These are just a few ideas, and since NNM declared March 9th Registered Dietician day, speak with your dietician on ways to up your fruit and veggie count in your diet. Produce purchased? Check. Integrating them into your diet? Check. Now, you’re telling me I have to hit every color on the spectrum in my fruit and vegetable choices? Yes! And here’s why. As I mentioned earlier, color is extremely important when it comes to food because, as a general rule, the brighter the color of food, the higher concentration of nutrients it contains. Not all fruits and vegetables are created nutritionally equal. Some vegetables, such as corn and potatoes are loaded with starch placing them in the starch column instead of the vegetable one, when it comes to health benefits. Such vegetables so happen to part of the popular crowd and get eaten a lot, so consider having on starchy vegetable and swapping the rest for a dark-green, red or orange vegetables. So it doesn’t matter which slogan you adopt, whether you eat right with color, taste the rainbow, color yourself healthy, or circle around the color wheel, adopting this thought into your diet will bring about a healthier you.
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